The Revolutionary Optimists

Amlan Ganguly, a lawyer-turned social entrepreneur, has sown hope in the poorest neighborhoods of Calcutta by empowering children.

Revolutionary optimists 01
Women of the World, Independent Lens
Premiere Date
June 17, 2013
60 minutes
Funding Initiative
Open Call
Series and Special Projects
  • Nominated laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2013 News and Documentary Emmy Awards-Outstanding Business and Economic Reporting—Long Form
  • Newnham nicole filmmaker bio

    Nicole Newnham

    Nicole Newnham co-directed the critically acclaimed documentary The Rape of Europa, about the fate of Europe's art treasures during WWII. The Rape of Europa played theatrically in 80 cities across the country, and was recently nominated for two Emmy awards. Nicole was also nominated for an Emmy Award for her documentary Sentenced Home, following three Cambodian refugees in Seattle who are deported back to Cambodia after 9/11. She field-produced the Emmy-nominated documentary Skin for PBS and National Geographic, and co-produced They Drew Fire, a widely-acclaimed special for PBS about the combat artists of World War II. Nicole received a Master's degree in Documentary Film from Stanford University.

    Other ITVS Films
    Sentenced Home

    Maren Grainger-Monsen

    Maren Grainger-Monsen is a physician and filmmaker-in-residence at Stanford University Center for Biomedical Ethics. She directed Worlds Apart and Hold Your Breath, a large-scale project on cross-cultural conflicts in medicine currently used in 63 percent of U.S. medical schools. She also directed a series of films on end-of-life issues, The Vanishing Line, which aired on P.O.V.; and Grave Words, which won first place in the AMA film festival. She studied film at the London International Film School and received her medical training at the University of Washington and Stanford University.

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    The Film

    Amlan Ganguly empowers children to become activists and educators, with powerful results. The Revolutionary Optimists follows him as he attempts to replicate his work in the brick fields outside the city, where children live and work in unimaginable conditions.

    Using street theater, puppetry, and dance as their weapons, the children in Calcutta's slums have cut their neighborhoods' malaria and diarrhea rates in half, and turned former garbage dumps into playing fields. Now, pushing at the limits of optimism, Amlan is attempting to take his work into the brickfields outside Calcutta, where spend their days making and carrying bricks using methods unchanged by centuries.

    The Revolutionary Optimists proposes a workable solution to intractable problems associated with poverty, including preventable diseases and ineffectual governance. Ganguly's story suggests that education and child empowerment are crucial keys to lifting entire societies out of hopelessness.