The annual Social Impact Media Awards (SIMA) celebrate the best impact documentaries from around the world that inspire activism, compassion and social transformation. SIMA has announced the finalists for the 2016 edition of their unique initiative.
The selected finalists will compete in the two categories Documentaries (Features, Shorts) and Impact Videos (Innovations, Creative Impact).
“Here are the films that are elevating the future of the impact cinema genre and our world”, said SIMA Founder and Executive Director Daniela Kon. 35 films move on to the final judging round. These unique documentaries spotlight stories from 21 countries, including Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, Cambodia, Chile, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jordan, Liberia, Mexico, Pakistan, South Africa, Sweden, Tanzania, Ukraine, UK, and the USA.
The winners will be announced on February 9, 2016 and showcased in Los Angeles at Skirball Cultural Center from April through August 2016. More information about the selection process, jury and competition is available on the SIMA website.
This year’s films explore the role of women and artists in the Arab Spring (The Trials of Spring; Nefertiti’s Daughters), the rule of law in Guatemala (Burden of Peace), the refugee crisis in Jordan and France (Salam Neighbor, Transit Zone), creative activism in South Africa and Sweden (The Mahoyo Project), racial injustice in the United States (Southern Rites), the reality of the global fashion industry (The True Cost), and a Ukrainian pastor rehabilitating drug-addicted street kids in the Terrence Malick-produced feature documentary Crocodile Gennadiy, among others.
Director: Steve Hoover
Producer: Danny Yourd
2015 | 96 min | Ukraine
Gennadiy Mokhnenko has made a name for himself by forcibly abducting homeless drug-addicted kids from the streets of Mariupol, Ukraine. As his country leans towards a European Union inclusion, hopes of continued post-Soviet revitalization seem possible. In the meantime, Gennadiy’s center has evolved into a more nebulous institution.
Director: Daniel F. Cardone
Producer: Marc Smolowitz
2015 | 81 min | USA
Saved by the introduction of protease inhibitors in the mid-1990s, many HIV positive men needed to rebuild the lives they thought they’d never be able to live. In an effort to reach equilibrium with the virus inside them, some migrated to Southern California’s Palm Springs in the hope of finding a healing desert oasis. But is this environment, with its tolerant population and constant sunshine, enough to eradicate the grief they carry within them, and strengthen them against the medications slowly poisoning their bodies?
Director: Kim Longinotto
Producers: Lisa Stevens & Teddy Leifer
2015 | 104 min | USA
Dreamcatcher explores the cycle of neglect, violence and exploitation which each year leaves thousands upon thousands of girls and women feeling that prostitution is their only option to survive. By following the charming and empathic Brenda, a former teenage prostitute who worked the streets of Chicago, we enter the lives of young women and see their world through their eyes. While the world may overlook these women and men, thankfully Brenda has not, providing an unflinching expose which contrasts seeming hopelessness against the difference that one person can make in the lives of many.
FRAME BY FRAME
Director & Producers: Alexandria Bombach & Mo Scarpelli
2015 | 85 min | Afghanistan
After decades of war and an oppressive Taliban regime, four Afghan photojournalists face the realities of building a free press in a country left to stand on its own – reframing Afghanistan for the world and for themselves.
OMO CHILD: THE RIVER AND THE BUSH
Director: John Rowe
Producers: Tyler Rowe & John Rowe
2015 | 89 min | Ethiopia
Lale Labuko, born and raised in the Kara tribe in the Omo Valley, Ethiopia, learns of “mingi” at age 15: children born out of wedlock, or whose top teeth grow in before their bottom teeth, or even those who are born a twin, are killed by virtue of this ancient tradition that deems them “mingi”, or cursed. Lale strives to not only save these children’s lives by adopting these children as his own; he also attempts to reconcile with Kara elders to end this tradition forever in order to ultimately protect the longevity of his people and his culture. Filmed over a five year period, this documentary paints stunning portraits of Ethiopian landscapes as it follows Lale’s journey where he confronts his own death, negotiates deeply rooted superstition, and navigates the difficult position of leading a cultural movement.
Director: Zach Ingrasci & Chris Temple
Producers: Salam Darwaza & Mohab Khattab
2015 | 76 min | Jordan
Seven miles from war, 85,000 Syrians struggle to restart their lives inside Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp. For the first time, two filmmakers fully embed themselves in the camp, providing an intimate look at the world’s most dire humanitarian crisis. From meeting Um Ali, a woman struggling to overcome personal loss, to the street smart, 10-year-old Raouf, whose trauma hides just beneath his ever present smile, they uncover inspiring stories of individuals rallying to rebuild their lives and those of their neighbors.
Director: Gillian Laub
Producers: Josh Alexander & Gillian Laub
2015 | 87 min | USA
Southern Rites visits Montgomery County, Georgia, one year after the town merged its racially segregated proms, and during a historic election campaign that may lead to its first African-American sheriff. Acclaimed photographer Gillian Laub, whose photos first brought the area unwanted notoriety, documents the repercussions when a white town resident is charged with the murder of a young black man. The case divides locals along well-worn racial lines, and the ensuing plea bargain and sentencing uncover complex truths and produce emotional revelations.
TELL SPRING NOT TO COME THIS YEAR
Director: Saeed Taji Farouky & Michael McEvoy
Producers: Michael McEvoy, Saeed Taji Farouky, & Elizabeth C Jones
2015 | 82 min | Afghanistan
Tell Spring Not to Come This Year follows a unit of the Afghan National Army (ANA) over the course of their first year of fighting in the Helmand province without NATO support. This intimate and humanist film explores a largely unheard and misrepresented perspective, revealing the deep personal motivations, desires and struggles of a band of fighting men on the front line. Without a NATO soldier in sight, and no narrative but their own, this is the war in Afghanistan, through the eyes of the Afghans who live it.
THE HAND THAT FEEDS
Directors & Producers: Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick
2014 | 84 min | USA
Shy sandwich-maker Mahoma Lopez unites his undocumented immigrant coworkers to fight abusive conditions at a popular New York restaurant chain. The epic power struggle that ensues turns a single city block into a battlefield in America’s new wage wars. Risking deportation and the loss of their livelihood, the workers team up with a diverse crew of innovative young organizers and launch themselves on a journey that will test the limits of their resolve. If they can win a contract, it will set a historic precedent for low-wage workers across the country. But whatever happens, Mahoma and his coworkers will never be exploited again.
THE TRIALS OF SPRING
Director: Gini Reticker
Producer: Beth Levison
2015 | 80 min | Egypt
When 21-year-old Hend Nafea travels from her village to Cairo to add her voice to the hundreds of thousands of Egyptians demanding an end to sixty years of military rule, she is beaten, arrested, and tortured. After her release, she is punished and imprisoned by her family for daring to speak out and shaming their name. Unbreakable, she sets out in a search for freedom and justice in a country gripped by a dangerous power struggle. Hend’s story mirrors the trajectory of the Arab Spring—from the ecstasy of newfound courage to the agony of shattered dreams. In the end, despite crushing setbacks, it is resilience that sustains the hope for reform for Hend and her fellow activists, even during the darkest hours of their struggle for a better Egypt.
TOMORROW WE DISAPPEAR
Director & Producer: Jimmy Goldblum
2015 | 83 min | India
Tomorrow We Disappear chronicles the last days of Kathputli, the mysterious hand-built artist colony first discovered in Salman Rushdie’s iconic Midnight Children. Hidden in the alleyways of New Delhi, a community of magicians, acrobats and puppeteers approach their looming eviction to make way for a modern skyscraper. Bound together by tradition and impending gentrification, this captivating film allows us to experience a culture’s magic and wonder before it’s gone.
THE TRUE COST
Director: Andrew Morgan
Producer: Michael Ross
2014 | 92 min | USA
“This is a story about clothing. It’s about the clothes we wear, the people who make them, and the impact the industry is having on our world. The price of clothing has been decreasing for decades, while the human and environmental costs have grown dramatically. The True Cost is a groundbreaking documentary film that pulls back the curtain on the untold story and asks us to consider, who really pays the price for our clothing? Filmed in countries all over the world, from the brightest runways to the darkest slums, and featuring interviews with the world’s leading influencers including Stella McCartney, Livia Firth and Vandana Shiva, The True Cost is an unprecedented project that invites us on an eye opening journey around the world and into the lives of the many people and places behind our clothes.”
BURDEN OF PEACE
Director: Joey Boink
Producers: Bart Voorsluis & Annemiek Munneke
2015 | 76 min | Guatemala
“Burden of Peace follows Guatemala’s first female Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz in her fight against impunity. After taking office Claudia obtains spectacular results and many high level arrests are made. But her determination encounters strong resistance from powerful elites that have up to then felt above the law. Will Claudia be able to win this battle? Witness her battle against corruption, impunity, crime bosses and former political leaders responsible for genocide.
A NEW PATH
Director & Producer: Gregory Walsh
2014 | 27 min | India
19-year-old Mukesh Rajak was born into a marginalized community in an impoverished region of rural India. His childhood was marked by discrimination and social exclusion due to his status as a dalit, a member of India’s ‘untouchable’ castes. But a chance opportunity to attend a nonprofit private school would lead Mukesh to find his voice as a community organizer and citizen journalist. Everyday he rides his scooter from village to village documenting negligence and corruption in his region’s school system, convinced that a proper education for every child is the key to transforming his community for the better.
Director & Producer: Mikel Aristregi & José Bautista
2015 | 25 min | Cambodia
In 2004 the photographer Mikel Aristregi traveled to Cambodia to document the daily lives of the street children of Phnom Penh. There he meets Pich, an 11 year old boy addicted to glue and meth who ends up entering a rehabilitation center. In 2013 Aristregi goes back to Phnom Penh with the intention of looking for Pich and finding out what has become of him. His search through relatives’ and friends’ testimonies becomes the heartbreaking story of a lost generation consumed by drugs.
Director: Michael T. Miller
Producer: Sean Peoples
2014 | 13 min | India
In India’s resource-rich Meghalaya State, demand for coal is transforming the environment and the people who depend on it. Coal mine owners are prospering from booming production, but few laws regulate the dangerous and polluting practice known as “rat-hole” mining. Until now- a new government tribunal recently banned all coal mining in the region, effectively shutting down the economy. Mine owners and workers staged protests, while people living downstream try to cope with dead rivers that once provided their livelihoods, food, and drinking water. Meanwhile, the Nepalese migrants who crossed the border to work in the mines are stuck in the middle.
Director: Ximena Amescua Cuenca
Producer: Graduate Culture and Media Program NYU
2015 | 23 min | Mexico
A glimpse into the everyday life of Juanita, a Mayan traditional doctor, midwife, nurse and activist. Leader of “The Awakening of the Women who Heal,” an organization of midwives in the Orient of Yucatan, Mexico. Juanita has dedicated her life to helping others with her gift for healing. The film follows Juanita as she redefines the meaning of ‘modern’ and ‘traditional’ medicine practices.
Director: Mark Nickolas
Producers: Mark Nickolas, Jean Ferreri & Ramy Francis
2015 | 39 min | Egypt
Nefertiti’s Daughters is a story of women, art, and revolution. Told by prominent Egyptian artists, this documentary witnesses the critical role revolutionary street art played during the Egyptian uprisings. Focused on the role of women artists in the struggle for social and political change, Nefertiti’s Daughters spotlights how the iconic graffiti of Queen Nefertiti places her on the front lines in the ongoing fight for women’s rights and freedoms in Egypt today.
Director: Craig Jackson
Producer: Neil Young
2015 | 11 min | USA
Since Monsanto began selling their patented “Roundup Ready” genetically modified (GM) seeds they have threatened to sue hundreds of farmers for patent infringement. Their heavy-handed investigations and ruthless prosecutions have been a relentless assault on the foundations of farming practices and traditions that have endured for millennia, including one of the oldest, the right to save and replant crop seed. Michael White, a fourth generation farmer and seed cleaner living in the northeast corner of rural Alabama never imagined that he and his elderly father would end up in the crosshairs of the GMO-pimping agribusiness behemoth Monsanto. This short documentary recounts the David vs Goliath tale of Michael White vs Monsanto.
TASHI AND THE MONK
Director & Producer: Andrew Hinton
2014 | 40 min | India
On a remote mountaintop a brave social experiment is taking place. Former Buddhist monk Lobsang was trained under the guidance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and has created a unique community in the foothills of the Himalayas which rescues orphaned and neglected children. Five-year-old Tashi is the newest arrival- her mother recently passed away and she’s been abandoned by her alcoholic father. Wild and troubled, Tashi is struggling to find her place amongst 84 new siblings. Can the community’s love and compassion transform Tashi’s alienation and tantrums into a capacity to make her first real friend?
Director & Producer: Frederik Subei
2015 | 32 min | France
Transit Zone is an authentic insight into the life of a refugee in the jungle of Calais in Northern France. Teefa has fled Sudan with the dream to start a new life in the UK. But sneaking onto a truck to cross the border is difficult and the harsh conditions of the camp are taking its toll. Teefa begins to question the greatness of Britain and looks for other options instead.
TUNING THE STUDENT MIND
Director: Chelsea Richer
Producer: Una Jackman
2015 | 31 min | USA
Tuning the Student Mind follows the journey of three students enrolled in Molly Beauregard’s sociology course, where they are experience the impact of her innovative, first-of-its-kind curriculum. Through the subjects’ personal stories, moments in the classroom, and nuanced interviews, the film illustrates how the Tuning the Student Mind approach creates not only good scholars, but also students who develop deep, self-reflective awareness and a sense of inner potential. As the narrative unfolds, we understand how Beauregard’s bold and unconventional approach to identity studies teaches students new methods of inquiry, pushing them to ignite their own creativity and imagination.
VOICES FROM THE SEA
Director: Álvaro Farías
Producer: Amaro Gómez-Pablos
2015 | 36 min | Chile
In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, there’s an island whose inhabitants subsistence depends on the sea. There has been an alarming decline of endemic species in their waters because of overfishing by international factory ships, as well as damaging plastic these same ships discard on their shores. This has led the Rapa Nui people to organize themselves. With an original soundtrack made by Ana Tijoux and narrated by Sylvia Earle, “Voices from the Sea” tells the story about the battle of a remote society to save the sea, and this action becomes an example of courage for the planet.
Director: Nicolas Cuellas
Producers: Alejandro Pacheco & Jonathan Stack
2014 | 34 min | Haiti
The terrible earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010 resulted in the displacement of 1.5 million, a death toll of 300,000 human beings, and 10 billion m3 of debris from over 200,000 damaged buildings. What are the causes that enabled these catastrophic consequences? The 16/6 Project was created to support the rehabilitation with community participation of damaged and dangerous neighborhoods, and sought to improve living conditions by promoting the establishment of basic social services prioritized by the community.
ACROSS THE TRACKS: STEPS TOWARDS CLEAN INDIA
Director: Catherine Feltham
2014 | 18 min | India
One year on from the launch of the Clean India campaign, with its ambitious target of a toilet for every household by 2019, WaterAid explores how something as simple as a toilet can help transform lives. Radha Verma, determined to protect her daughter after she narrowly escapes a physical attack, builds one of the first toilets in Rakhi Mandi slum, home to 3,500 people. Radha’s story shows that change is possible, even in a challenging urban environment, and that ultimately everyone, everywhere needs a safe place to go to the toilet.
GIRLS IN CONTROL – TANZANIA
Director: Mark van Luyk
Producer: Judith Madigan
2015 | 6 min | Tanzania
On any given day millions of girls and women worldwide are menstruating. In Tanzania, 75% of rural schoolgirls never used commercial sanitary pads. This is a striking story of Vanencia, a 14-year-old student. As the leader of the school Health Club she aims to break the silence on menstruation- with success.
Director: Morgana Wingard
Producers: Sean Southey & Meesha Brown
2015 | 6 min | Liberia
Foday Gallah is training to become an anesthetist. While in school, he supervised six ambulances in Montserrado County, Liberia. Though difficult, the work bore few health risks. In June 2014, when the Ebola outbreak reached Montserrado, this changed. With too few ambulances, Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) beds and specialized healthcare workers in Liberia to tackle the growing epidemic, Foday decided to stay in his position. This decision nearly cost him his life when he put everything on the line for a four-year-old stranger. Foday’s heroic actions placed him in the December 2014 TIME Magazine “Person of the Year” edition.
THE MAHOYO PROJECT
Directors: Moira Ganley, Farah Yusuf, MyNa Do & Gustav Nord
Producers: Mahoyo & Flip-Flop Interactive
2014 | 30 min | Sweden & South Africa
The Mahoyo Project is a documentary that follows Mahoyo, a Swedish creative trio as they embark on a cultural exchange – collaborating with local artists in Johannesburg, South Africa. Together they challenge stereotypes and break down normative barriers surrounding race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation, through music, fashion and community building.
MEN BUY SEX
Director: Alice Russell
Producers: Gemma Atkinson & Fred Grace
2015 | 8 min | UK
This is a documentary about paying for sex. Three men share three radically different experiences while three women lip sync to their words. This frank exploration of gender inequality uses subverted perspectives to ask: what can these stories tell us about our society, others, and ourselves?
Director & Producer: Lisa Russell
2015 | 3 min | USA
Mother’s Cry is a poetry-based video featuring renowned youth poet, Savon Bartley. This poetic call to action aims to inspire youth to start dialogue around climate change.
NATURE NEEDS YOU
Director & Producer: Mark Pearce
2014 | 9 min | Australia
While industrial resource developments continue to put at risk our natural and cultural significance, people across Australia are standing their ground for nature. This is the story of five everyday Australians who are working with their communities to minimize the impacts of climate change on these places by keeping oil, coal and gas in the ground.
Director: Lisa Donato
Producer: Sparkle Motion Films
2015 | 8 min | Pakistan
A civil rights activist, Mohammad Jibran Nasir, sparks a social revolution after almost 140 children were killed in the Peshawar Army School tragedy. Narrated by Pakistani actress Fawzia Mirza, this documentary sheds light on the consequences of extreme religion and terrorism in Pakistan and offers hope to the nation’s seemingly bleak reality.
RIGHT TO IDENTITY
Director: Pep Bonet /ALTAMAR
Producer: Line Hadsbjerg /ALTAMAR
2015 | 13 min | Tanzania
With one of the lowest levels of birth registration in Africa, Tanzania’s failing infrastructure and logistical challenges have left decades of backlog in birth registrations. A Tanzanian governmental agency, RITA, joined forces with some strong partners and decided to tackle the issue of birth registration with an innovative approach: capturing data using mobile phones. The moment a child is registered, the government remains accountable to that child as a citizen of the country, and the child is entitled to claim their rights as an individual. ‘Right to Identity’ sets out to explore how mobile technology is being used to secure one of the most fundamental human rights – a right to identity.
RIO EU AMO EU CUIDO
Director: Eduardo Hunter Moura
Producers: Lula Freitas, Lívia Nunes, Mariana Bentes, Paulica Coelho, Flavia Bousfield, Guilherme Arcanjo, Guilherme Pina, Marcela Flores & Neto White
2015 | 20 min | Brazil
When the social movement “Rio Eu Amo Eu Cuido” was created it had a single purpose: make Rio de Janeiro a better place to live in. This documentary, shot between October 2014 and March 2015, shows a little of the movement’s universe, projects and actions that took place with the help of volunteers and people passionate about Rio de Janeiro.
Director: Rachel Brian
2015 | 3 min | USA
Tea Consent is a humorous video about a serious topic. It addresses the issue of sexual assault and consent using the metaphor of offering people tea. Using androgynous figures, it takes the viewer through various scenarios to reinforce the idea of affirmative consent and challenge societal assumptions about sexual assault.
The Social Impact Media Awards (SIMA) hosts a unique international film competition & awards dedicated to showcasing exceptional documentaries that promote social justice and diverse voices from across the globe. Now in its third year, SIMA has grown to become an international film program and collection, curating and distributing the best international impact cinema productions.
Through the annual SIMA AWARDS and year-round FILM PROGRAMS, SIMA provides a catalyst for these important works, and serves as a film reserve for educators, journalists and screening partners worldwide.
- Head to the official SIMA Awards website for more info.