“It’s the things I do, not luck, that determine my fate.” So says a plucky young girl from the slums of Kolkata who is taking the initiative to recruit her neighbors to vaccinate their children against polio in the new documentary The Revolutionary Optimists. Directed by Nicole Newnham and Maren Grainger-Monsen, the inspirational film tells the story of lawyer-turned-community activist Amlan Ganguly and his volunteer army of children who are turning things around for some of India’s poorest citizens. It won the LightStay Sustainability Award at this year’s Sundance Festival and will screen for three days this week at Upstate Films in Rhinebeck.
Amlan Ganguly doesn’t rescue slum children; he empowers them to become agents of change, battling poverty and transforming their neighborhoods from within. The Revolutionary Optimists follows Ganguly and three of the children with whom he works on an intimate journey through adolescence, as they cut malaria and polio rates, turn garbage dumps into playing fields and raise the aspiration levels of their communities. Tackling such difficult topics as child marriage, gender equality and child labor from the point of view of the children themselves, The Revolutionary Optimists is a powerful look at slum children not as victims, but as innovators.
The Rhinebeck theater will host a special audience discussion following the screening of the film this Sunday, March 31, featuring Amlan Ganguly himself along with Kelly Devine and Jon Sweeney. The question-and-answer session will follow the 2:30 p.m. matinée. The Revolutionary Optimists will also be shown at 8:30 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday, April 1 and 2.
Tickets cost $8.50 general admission, $5 for Upstate Films members. For more information call (845) 876-2515 or visit https://upstatefilms.org/special-events. To view a trailer for The Revolutionary Optimists, visit https://vimeo.com/59202365.
The Revolutionary Optimists screening/discussion with guest stars, Sunday, March 31, 2:30 p.m., $8.50/$5, Upstate Films, 6415 Montgomery Street (Route 9), Rhinebeck; (845) 876-2515, https://upstatefilms.org/special-events.