Stanford Center for
Biomedical Ethics

The Revolutionary Optimists

The Revolutionary Optimists is a powerful, inspiring, and unprecedented look at slum children--not as victims--but as innovators and agents of change.  The film will broacast on National PBS on Independent Lens on June 17th as part of the Women and Girls Lead Campaign.

Revolutionary Optimists TEDxChange 2012

Watch this new video about The Revolutionary Optimists and Map Your World presented at TEDxChange 2012

TEDx Revolutionary Optimists Short
Short film presented at TEDxChange 2011

About the Film


Visit the film website.

Children are saving lives in the slums of Kolkata. Amlan Ganguly doesn't rescue slum children; he empowers them to become change agents, battling poverty and transforming their neighborhoods with dramatic results. Filmed over the course of several years, The Revolutionary Optimists follows Amlan and three of the children he works with on an intimate journey through adolescence, as they fight for the better future he encourages them to imagine is deservedly theirs.

Kajal, a twelve-year-old girl, is one of 9 million Indian children who live and work inside a brick field. When Amlan creates the first school inside the brick field, Kajal has a chance to have an education, and find her voice. But when her mother falls ill, she and Amlan must balance her desire to learn and make change with her need to work in order to survive.

Priyanka is the sixteen-year-old leader of a dance troupe founded by Amlan to keep girls in school and dissuade them from early marriage. A serious dancer, she is also paid a tiny stipend by Amlan to teach dance to other children in her neighborhood. Now her parents are pressuring her to marry against her wishes, and she sees only one way out – to marry her young boyfriend. But if she elopes, she will be controlled by her in-laws, and risks losing her position in the dance group, her employment, and her chance at an education.

Salim is an eleven-year-old boy who is fighting to make change in one of Kolkata’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 water in their colony. By mapping their un-mapped community and collecting data about the problems that they face, Salim 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 in their own community?

Hot-headed, theatrical, but astonishingly dedicated and sincere, Amlan left a successful law career to try to make meaningful change where the law and other NGO's had failed. A dancer, choreographer, and costume designer, he brings creative expression to subjects that can otherwise be difficult for film audiences to approach. The Revolutionary Optimists will leverage this artistry, to reveal to the audience both the desperate, flawed world he is trying to change, and the vibrant, colorful world that his optimism generates.

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, Map Your World, we hope to give these youth a powerful technological tool to advance their dreams of change for the neighborhood and inspire other kids around the world to make their worlds a better place.

Click here to view the Revolutionary Optimists Website

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