INDEPENDENT LENS: The Revolutionary Optimists
Airs Monday, June 17, 2013 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV
"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.
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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?