Receiving this letter from the students at the school named after inspiring human rights lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, is a great way to wrap up 2015!
On January 9th, Save Ellis Island is hosting a screening and book signing of Forgotten Ellis Island, the film and book that I produced about the hospital on Ellis, that served tens of thousands of sick immigrants during the great wave of immigration. See the trailer here: https://youtu.be/r-ZW2UwWg8s
Tickets for the event, which will take place on Ellis Island, can be purchased here:
“Hard Hat” Tours of the former hospital buildings are also available and while there you will see the remarkable art exhibit by JR
ELLIS: The short film stars Academy Award Winner Robert De Niro, was written by Academy Award winner Eric Roth and is directed by the artist JR whose Unframed art installations in the abandoned Ellis Island hospital complex serves as the set for this powerful and timely film.
To watch the trailer click here: ELLIS
FORGOTTEN ELLIS ISLAND, the film and book that I wrote, was the first to be published about the immigrant hospital which saved tens of thousands of lives and, in an era before antibiotics, kept the nation safe from epidemics. Watch the trailer here:
Tiny Ripples of Hope is a film about the Beatrice Mtetwa Primary School located on an island in Africa’s Lake Victoria. I’m currently fundraising for the film and hope to begin filming in the spring, 2016. The children and teachers will be creating a video journal of their school and home lives with many clips being used in Tiny Ripples of Hope.
An earlier film of mine, (2013), Beatrice Mtetwa and the Rule of Law, was distributed throughout Africa by Amnesty International and Fox Africa. It was seen by teachers and parents on the island, who were inspired by the courageous Zimbabwean human rights lawyer featured in the film. They decided to name a newly founded primary school after Beatrice and to include classes on human rights in the curriculum. The wish is that Tiny Ripples of Hope will inspire educators throughout Africa to build human rights education into their curricula. As the students who attend the Beatrice Mtetwa School grow into young adulthood, the expectation is that this kind of education will help them recognize injustice, encourage them to speak out against corruption and authoritarian rule, and become more active in civic life as they engage as citizens.
According to the educator and human rights activist, Dr. Nico Horn, “The right to education and the teaching of human rights (human rights education) are intertwined. Children have a right to education, but the education that they ought to receive is not ideologically neutral: it is compelled to include education on human rights.”
By focusing on the Beatrice Mtetwa Primary School and its teaching of human rights, the film will be the vehicle in which to tell the larger story of why this kind of educational development is important in Africa, and become an advocacy tool for the creation of other primary schools to do the same. The film will enable educators and communities to see the value of teaching human rights, peace and inclusivity within a traditional curriculum.
The Beatrice Mtetwa School is located on Kalangala Island within Lake Victoria; 7,000 residents live within several villages. Fishing, boat building, manual labor, and the farming of palm oil are the main industries, with limited tourism providing additional jobs. Infrastructure, housing and transport on the island are considered poor. The school has just moved into a permanent school building and is being renovated by teachers, students and their parents. Thirty boys and girls attend the school ranging in age from five to fifteen; their parents pay fees for this private primary school. Three teachers instruct the children in English, math, science, and religious education, in addition to lessons about peace, justice and human rights. According to teachers Aideh Ssemmanda and John Ssentamu, “Children must first learn what their rights are and then learn to defend those rights.” When asked what kind of concerns parents of the children have about the human rights curriculum, the teachers gave this response, “Parents are worried about children becoming big-headed and too empowered.” “But more importantly,” says John Ssentamu, many people think negatively about women and yet Beatrice is winning the hearts and minds of both men and women. I pray that I become like Beatrice. That our students become like Beatrice.”
Click on the following link to see some of Ellis Island’s most endearing photos take on new meaning as they are enmeshed into the walls and windows of the former immigrant hospital.
While working on the documentary and book, Forgotten Ellis Island, about the Ellis Island Hospital, I often thought of the phrase, “if these walls could talk”… now, with JR’s artistic treatment of these iconic photos, the walls do speak — as faces of the sick immigrant patients peer back. It isn’t hard to imagine their anxiety and fear as they were told their dreams of arriving in America must be deferred –by a mandatory stay in the hospital separated from family, until their disease was cured.
The Statue of Liberty reflected in a bathroom mirror in the contagious disease ward of the Ellis Island Hospital. Photo by Boston Film & Video
Discovery Life will broadcast the film about Juli Windsor, the first runner with dwarfism to complete the Boston Marathon on April 14th, 8pm EST. In 2013, like thousands of other runners, Juli was stopped at mile 25 when bombs were exploding at the finish line. She came back in 2014 to finish the race and made history.
Click here to view the trailer.
BBC World will broadcast the film April 18th and 19th around the world. The film will also be part of the Boston Globe Docs series with a screening at the John F. Kennedy Library, Sunday, April 19th at 6pm. We expect many runners in the audience as the 2015 Boston Marathon is the next day!
As co-producer, I filmed many of the interviews and footage of Juli, first responders from the events of the 2013 marathon, scenes leading up to the 2014 Boston Marathon, runners along the course and at the finish line, and co-wrote the script for the feature length film.
Beatrice Mtetwa, the human rights lawyer in Zimbabwe who fights for change through the rule of law, was just named by Fortune Magazine to be one of the world’s greatest leaders. Anyone who has been defended by Beatrice knows of her remarkable bravery and resilience standing up to the regime of Robert Mugabe. Now the world will know of this amazing woman’s strength to do what is right, in spite of the odds being against her. When asked why she risks her life day after day fighting for the law in an often lawless country, she said, “You know this has to be done. Somebody has to do it. Why shouldn’t it be you?”
Watch Beatrice Mtetwa and the Rule of Law, here, the film that I produced (co-producer Zimbabwean filmmaker, Hopewell Chin’Ono) about her life and work…
Read the Fortune Magazine article about Beatrice here
Distribution is underway for Undaunted, Chasing History at the Boston Marathon, a documentary film featuring Juli Windsor, the first dwarf to finish the Boston Marathon. In 2013, Juli, like thousands of other runners was stopped at mile 25.7 as bombs were exploding at the finish line. In 2014, she came back to make history! Broadcast dates will be announced soon. Trailer can be seen here:
The Beatrice Mtetwa School for Girls is opening in Uganda on Jan.26th! Focusing on a curriculum about human rights and civic responsibility, the school is named after the inspiring human rights lawyer from Zimbabwe, Beatrice Mtetwa. The film that I produced in 2013 about her courageous work continues to screen and broadcast around the world. May these students be as inspired by Beatrice as I was filming with her.
In this photo of Beatrice, she is walking in front of her elementary school in Manzini, Swaziland, where a teacher told her that she “had potential” and that she could be whatever she wanted to be.
Determined to leave the rural “village life” behind where she was raised, Beatrice received a scholarship to the University of Edinburgh then went on to law school in Botswana.
I am pleased to be featured in Nieman Reports, the quarterly publication of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. I write about making the film about Beatrice Mtetwa, the inspiring and brave human rights lawyer in Zimbabwe. The documentary took root at Lippman House, home of the Nieman Foundation, with Hopewell Chin’Ono, Nieman Fellow, Class of 2010, as co-producer, and Andrew Meldrum, Class of 2008, who was defended by Beatrice and appears in the film. I was a Nieman Fellow in the Class of 1994.