skip to main content

Listen

Read

Watch

Schedules

Programs

Events

Give

Account

Donation Heart Ribbon

INDEPENDENT LENS: The Revolutionary Optimists

Airs Monday, June 17, 2013 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Child activists working with Amlan Ganguly, marching through the streets of Calcutta, using megaphones to spread health messages.

"The Revolutionary Optimists" reveals the work of Bengali visionary, Amlan Ganguly, a passionate former attorney who doesn’t just rescue slum children — he empowers them to become change agents, battling poverty and transforming their neighborhoods with dramatic results. Filmed over the course of three years, the film follows Amlan and three of the children he works with on an intimate journey through adolescence, as they challenge the idea that marginalization is written into their destiny.

Courtesy of Jon Shenk

Amlan Ganguly and the children.

Courtesy of Ranjan Palit

Kajal, eleven-year-old child laborer and budding activist, in the brickfield outside Calcutta where she lives and works.

Courtesy of Jon Shenk

Amlan Ganguly and the children putting on a puppet show about the need for clean water in their neighborhood.

Map Your World

Map Your World enables young people to create interactive data and story maps focused on important issues leveraging proven technologies including Google Earth, GPS, Android phones, and the open source tool Formhub. Educators can use Map Your World in the classroom, share their findings, and collaborate with educators and students from around the world. From kids in Kolkata tracking polio vaccination rates and drinkable water taps to Oakland middle-schoolers counting and discarding cigarette butts littered around their lake, and Seattle youth mapping incidents of violence and bullying, young people everywhere can collect data, map the issues, share powerful stories and become change agents in their own communities. Visit Map Your World

A film by Nicole Newnham and Maren Grainger-Monsen, "The Revolutionary Optimists" premieres on the award-winning series INDEPENDENT LENS, hosted by Stanley Tucci, on Monday, June 17, 2013 on PBS (check local listings).

Using theater, dance, and data, the children have cut malaria rates and turned garbage dumps into playing fields. Now, Amlan and the children have set their sights on goals that push the limits of optimism: trying to bring clean water to a Kolkata slum long denied it, and bringing education and hope to the migrant children working in brick-making fields on the outskirts of the booming city.

12-year old Kajal lives inside gate of a massive brick-making operation, and spends her days washing dishes, carrying bricks, and dreaming of becoming a tailor. After Amlan sets up a makeshift school inside the compound, Kajal suddenly has the chance to get an education. But when her mother falls ill, she must balance her desire to learn and make change with her need to survive.

Priyanka is the teenaged leader of a dance group founded by Amlan to keep slum girls in school and dissuade them from early marriage. But Priyanka’s parents are abusing her and she sees only one way out — to marry her young boyfriend. Amlan fights to encourage Priyanka and the rest of the girls to stay in school and keep their eyes on her future.

Priyanka’s eventual decision to elope breaks Amlan's heart, but he resolves to keep fighting — hoping that one day Priyanka's children will know a better life.

Shika and Salim are fiery 12-year old best friends living in a neighborhood where each morning everyone must walk almost two miles before dawn to get water from a neighboring slum. The film explores the toll not having clean water takes on their families as it follows their heroic efforts to take action.

By mapping their community and collecting data, Salim and Shika hope to convince the Colony Committee to give them a drinking water tap. Then fate intervenes, and they are chosen to speak in Delhi in front of Parliament on behalf of their group. Can these children bring about desperately needed change for the whole community?

"The Revolutionary Optimists" is on Facebook, and you can follow @RevOptimists on Twitter. INDEPENDENT LENS is on Facebook, and you can follow @IndependentLens on Twitter.

Video

Independent Lens: The Revolutionary Optimists Trailer

Above: Amlan Ganguly is a lawyer-turned-social entrepreneur who has transformed some of the poorest slums of Kolkata by empowering children to become leaders in improving health and sanitation. Using street theater, dance and data as their weapons, the children have cut malaria and diarrhea rates in half, increased polio vaccination rates and turned garbage dumps into playing fields. Instead of feeling powerless and doomed to perpetuate the cycle of poverty, these children are developing the tools and attitudes to create opportunities for themselves and their communities.

Video

Clip: Independent Lens: The Revolutionary Optimists

Video

The Revolutionary Optimists: Map Your World

Above: Map Your World is a multi-platform project that puts the power of new technologies into the hands of young change agents, enabling them to map, track, and improve the health of their own communities — and then share their stories with each other and with the world. The project was inspired by the documentary "The Revolutionary Optimists," which profiles "The Daredevils," a group of youth in one of Kolkata's most notorious squatters' colonies, who have made a dramatic improvement in the health of their community, a place that cannot even be found on the map. Youth + Technology = Change. Map Your World enables young people to create interactive data and story maps focused on important issues leveraging proven technologies including Google Earth, GPS, Android phones, and the open source tool Formhub. Educators can use Map Your World in the classroom, share their findings, and collaborate with educators and students from around the world. From kids in Kolkata tracking polio vaccination rates and drinkable water taps to Oakland middle-schoolers counting and discarding cigarette butts littered around their lake, and Seattle youth mapping incidents of violence and bullying, young people everywhere can collect data, map the issues, share powerful stories and become change agents in their own communities.