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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- See all the 2016 finalist at the SIMA Awards website.