Sundance Institute Short Film Challenge



Over the last 20 years, global poverty has been cut in half. Help us celebrate this progress with storytellers around the world.

This striking fact opens five short films launching today on Fandor (and elsewhere) in an effort to increase awareness of the challenges and opportunities related to global poverty and hunger. The initiative, funded by the Sundance Institute and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, includes an open call for five more films. Those chosen will receive $10,000 and travel to the Sundance Film Festival where their films will screen in 2015.

For many, that opening title card will come as a surprise. The popular perception of our collective battle to improve the lives of the world’s poorest tends towards the dire and hopeless. So much so that when the Economist was confronted with this positive news, they felt compelled to label their astonishing graph (a big downward line) “Hooray!” It is true that there are many “ifs” and “buts” on this number; getting the word out about such improvements, given the enormous problems we still face, has been difficult. Each of these films, in its own way, is an effort to tell that story. They show us small, personal changes that, when put together, represent a possible, better future.

They also beg the question: what role should media play in shepherding popular opinion (particularly in the U.S.) on these issues? Documentary filmmakers have long been committed to positive social change (for some fascinating examples see BritDoc’s change dossiers on five of last year’s top documentaries) and news media is committed to remaining objective, but more and more there is room for new kinds of storytellers and media makers to chip away at our blasé exterior. Just take a look at the popular podcast Stuff You Should Know‘s Kiva page. Almost 8,000 fans have given nearly $2.5 million in microloans. This is not one short-term relief campaign but a years-long, dedicated effort, hosted by a popular podcast, and maintained by regular people (like Steve and Connie from Kalamazoo, Missouri, who have made 429 loans over four years and who say they loan because they “want the world to be a better place for our kids and yours”).

So here is your chance, film aficionados. Take a few minutes to watch these great shorts and perhaps change your own perceptions about some of the world’s toughest places.


Am I Going Too Fast?

After My Garden Grows



Hannah Eaves is an independent consultant who works with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to measure the social impact of media.

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