MAY’S FREE COMMUNITY CINEMA: “The Revolutionary Optimists” |

MAY’S FREE COMMUNITY CINEMA: “The Revolutionary Optimists”

Paula Struckman
Courtesy photo
Staff Photo |


Grand Junction:

Wednesday, May 15 — 7 p.m. screening, 6:30 p.m. wine and cheese reception

Room 111, Academic Classroom Building

Colorado Mesa University

The Academic Classroom Building is located near the intersection of Elm and Cannell avenues with plenty of free parking available after 6.


• Virginia Brown, program support specialist, Girl Scouts of Colo.

• Margery Grandbouche, coordinator, Hilltop Family Connections

• Representative from the Mesa County Health Dept.

• Gretchen Reist Henderson, moderator, Off the Grid Films

This Community Cinema Film is sponsored by Chevron, Mesa County Libraries, Talon Wine Brands and KAFM 88.1 Community Radio.

Prayasam is a non-governmental organization in India founded by attorney Amlan Ganguly. Ganguly became disillusioned with the plight of the poor and resolved to enable slum children to participate in changing their lives and those of others. Believing that children could progress through their own endeavor, half of Prayasam’s board of directors are children.

Appalled by the use of child labor in the brickyards of Kolkata (Calcutta), Ganguly starts a brickyard school giving children both an education and opportunity to socialize. Without either they would continue to accept what they have without change.

Through using various methods of media such as theater, dance, puppetry and storytelling, and interactive problem-solving, a cadre of Kolkata’s slum children became “Revolutionary Optimists,” resulting in extraordinary accomplishments within the community.

Among the challenges faced are sexism, illiteracy, polio and, most critical, lack of access to clean water. These adolescents conduct polio vaccine drives convincing mothers to inoculate their children. With garbage dumps a breeding place for malaria, diarrhea and other health issues, the group motivates others to clean up the garbage dumps and turn them into playing fields. The community comes together with both girls and boys playing football (soccer) and children getting to know one another.

Salim Shekh, a 9-year-old boy from the slums of Kolkata, observed the lack of potable drinking water for 9,000 people, and embarked on a campaign to collect data, map the area and impress the government of the need for a clean water tap.

After three years of research, he was asked to present his report before the Indian Parliament.

Salim’s best friend, Sikha Patra, interviews girls about the problems they confront as forced child labor in the brickyards where carrying 1,500 bricks a day earns $1.45, child marriage when most girls marry at the age of 12 or 13 and have four children by the age of 20, and sexual inequality — boys have freedom while girls work. Six months later, on National Child Girls Day, this 12-year-old girl from the slums of Kolkata speaks to the Indian Ministry of Child Development. “As a girl I’ve been told everything that happens is our fate or luck. We cannot depend on fate but must work for ourselves.”

“The Revolutionary Optimists” is an adventure for the viewer. Witness the enthusiasm of the children, their empowerment, and the change in their neighborhood in spite of living in the slums of Kolkata.

An update after the release of the documentary: The Oakland Local website, April 16, 2013, states that Salim Shekh was in Berkeley, Calif., for a screening of this documentary and was heading off to Washington, D.C. At the end of this month, he will travel to Abu Dhabi with Bill Gates and give a presentation at a global vaccine summit. By the end of April 2013, there will be a fresh water pipe to the slums of Kolkata.

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