Community Cinema: The Revolutionary Optimists


Partnerships & Collaborations

Presented in partnership with ITVS Community Cinema and HoustonPBS
Post-screening discussion with co-director Nicole Newnham


The Film

Amlan Ganguly is a visionary. This lawyer-turned-community activist is not only changing a neighborhood, but also changing the way its youngest residents envision their lives. In this character-driven and highly cinematic documentary, acclaimed filmmakers Nicole Newnham (The Rape of Europa, Sentenced Home) and Maren Grainger-Monsen (Worlds Apart, The Vanishing Line) reveal Ganguly’s critical work in a Calcutta slum neighborhood. Filmed over the course of three and a half years, The Revolutionary Optimists follows Amlan and three of the children he works with through adolescence as they challenge the idea that marginalization is written into their destiny.

Using theater, dance, and data, the children have cut disease rates and turned garbage heaps into playing fields. Now, they have set their sights on goals that push at the limits of optimism: trying to bring clean water to a community that has long been denied it, and enabling the migrant children working in the brick fields on Calcutta’s outskirts to receive an education.


The Filmmakers

Nicole Newnham co-produced and directed The Rape of Europa, about the fate of Europe’s art treasures during World War II. The film played theatrically in 80 cities, was broadcast on PBS as a primetime special, was nominated for two national Emmys and a WGA award, and shortlisted for the 2007 Documentary Oscar. Newnham was nominated for a national Emmy Award for co-producing and directing Sentenced Home, which was broadcast on Independent Lens and follows three Cambodian refugees in Seattle who are deported back to Cambodia after 9/11. With Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Brian Lanker, she also co-produced They Drew Fire, an acclaimed special for PBS about the combat artists of World War II, and wrote the companion book distributed by Harper Collins.

Maren Grainger-Monsen is a physician and the founder and director of the Program in Bioethics in Film at the Stanford University Center for Biomedical Ethics. She directed Hold Your Breath and Worlds Apart, a large-scale project on cross-cultural conflicts in medicine, which was broadcast on national public television and is currently being used in 63 percent of U.S. medical schools. Grainger-Monsen also directed The Vanishing Line, which was broadcast on P.O.V.; Where the Highway Ends: Rural Healthcare in Crisis, which won a regional Emmy Award; and Grave Words, which was awarded first place in the American Medical Association Film Festival. She studied film at the London International Film School and received her medical doctorate from the University of Washington.


Our Partners

Licensed to the University of Houston System and governed by the UH Board of Regents, HoustonPBS serves to empower, engage and enrich the lives of the people of southeast Texas. The nation’s first educational television station, it reaches millions of viewers with quality programs about culture, arts, science, news, national/world affairs, and outstanding children's programming. HoustonPBS initiates community outreach programs and special events on topics ranging from current events to health and education. Support comes primarily through the generous contributions of viewers with additional money from grants, special events and the local business community.

Community Cinema
Community Cinema is a groundbreaking public education and civic engagement initiative featuring free monthly screenings of films from the Emmy Award-winning series Independent Lens. Community Cinema is on location in more than 95 cities nationally, bringing together leading organizations, community members, and public television stations to learn, discuss, and get involved in key social issues of our time.


Video: Official Trailer



Supported by The Brown Foundation, Inc., Houston Arts Alliance, City of Houston, The Cullen Trust for the Performing Arts, Bank of America, and United Airlines – Official Airline of Asia Society Texas Center.

Event Details

Thu 30 May 2013
7:00 PM
1370 Southmore Blvd. Houston, TX 77004 713.496.9901
Buy Tickets
Free with reservation (limit 4 per person). Click the 'Buy Tickets' button to request a reservation via email or contact Jahan Jafarpour at 713.496.9901.
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