The Revolutionary Optimists

Children are saving lives in the slums of Calcutta. Using dance and street theater, Amlan Ganguly empowers children to become change agents, transforming their neighborhoods with dramatic results. This film has inspired the multi-platform 'Map Your World', putting the power of mobile technologies into the hands of kids, enabling them to map, track, and improve health in their own communities.

The Revolutionary Optimists follows Amlan Ganguly, a lawyer-turned social entrepreneur who has made a significant impact in the poorest neighborhoods of Calcutta 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. Now, pushing at the limits of optimism, Amlan is attempting to take his work into the brickfields outside Calcutta. Our film follows three children working with Amlan -- Kajol, Priyanka and Selim -- who are each facing their own struggles. Kajol, a twelve-year old girl living and working in the brick field, spends her days washing dishes and carrying bricks, but dreams of being a teacher. When Amlan creates a school inside the brickfield, Kajol suddenly has a chance to have an education, and find her voice. But when her mother falls ill, she and Amlan struggle to balance her desire to learn and make change with her need to survive. Priyanka is a beautiful and talented young sixteen year old, who had she been born into another situation, might have been a Bollywood star. But because of conflict with her family, she has dropped out of high school and works sewing labels onto men's underwear in her tiny home. A serious dancer, she is paid a stipend by Amlan to teach younger kids in her neighborhood. Now her parents are pressuring her to marry an older man and she sees only one way out -- to marry her young boyfriend. But if she leaves home to marry him, she will be controlled by her in-laws, and she risks losing her position in the dance group, where she can be a positive influence on other young women. Selim is an eleven-year-old boy who is fighting to make change in one of Calcutta's worst slums, but his family faces many hardships -- including having to leave their home at 4:30 every morning to steal water from a neighboring slum, as there is no clean water in their colony. By mapping their un-mapped community, and collecting data about the problems they face, Selim and his fellow child activists hope to convince the government to give them a water tap. Can these child activists bring about desperately needed change for the whole community? As the centerpiece of a multi-platform advocacy campaign, The Revolutionary Optimists will leverage Ganguly's story to bring attention to the urgent need to solve the treatable health problems in the developing world, and how education and child empowerment are a crucial key to reaching that goal. Through our online tool and community Map Your World, we will give youth around the world the inspiration and technology to make their worlds a better place.

Production team