loading

Widgetized Sidebar

This panel is active and ready for you to add some widgets via the WP Admin

Meet the 2016 Winners of the Conscious Good Humanitarian Film Festival

Meet these talented filmmakers and learn what drives them to tell such important stories!

First Place & Audience Award:

1-800-GIVE-US-YOUR-KIDNEY

Samantha Smith, Director

Runner Up:

OUR VOICES ARE RARELY HEARD

Cali Bondad, Director

Special Mention:

DAY 39

Jesse Gustafson, Director

&

THE TELEGRAM MAN

James Francis Khehtie, Director

Samantha Smith (First Place)

1-800-GIVE-US-YOUR-KIDNEY

What personal experience inspired you to make this film?

I met Harold in Malibu a few years ago. He spoke in one of my college classes about his donation, and I was surprised to learn that he did such a thing! I was in grad school and needed a thesis project and couldn’t get this story off my mind. I was interested to find out what compelled Harold to donate at that time in his life, and then, the more I dove into the story, the more I loved it.

Your film exemplifies the criteria for the festival, particularly compassion and empathy. What is one message you would like viewers to take away from watching your film?

My personal hope is that audiences feel inspired to help people unlike themselves. Despite differences in gender, race, religion, nationality, age and even personality – we are all made up of the same parts on the inside. We’re just packaged differently. I’d love for that to be the takeaway.

Your film makes an impactful statement without advocacy or judgment; talk about that approach to storytelling and why it’s effective.

If you have a strong story, it will speak for itself. Films are about an emotional experience. I don’t think it’s a place for advocacy or judgment. The last thing I’d want to do is make an audience feel like I look down upon them. My job is to tell a story and if I do that job well, then the audience will hopefully take away what I’ve intended.

And I believe audiences will be more prompted to participate in a cause if they are affected emotionally than if you force an agenda on them.

How can filmmaking and positive media transform the way we treat ourselves and others?

I love film as a medium to tell stories and reach a wide range of audiences. Images words and music are each impactful on their own – and constructing them together in a film is an cool opportunity to have real emotional impact. And it’s a way to expose lots of people to something they may have not otherwise been exposed to. As Harold told me when I interviewed him – the way to lose fear about something is to shed light on it, open it up, talk about it. Film is a great way to do that. And it’s a first step to ultimately transform the way we treat ourselves and others. There is ample content in entertainment, but much of it is produced to help audiences tune out. I aspire to be a part of creating content that is engaging and enjoyable while also helping audiences tune in. I believe there is a deep need for more meaningful media.

Do you have a daily practice/routine/ritual?

I wish I did, but my days are total chaos. Ha! Or at least they look very different depending on the phase of production!

Do you have a favorite quote you can share?

There is a Thomas Merton quite that inspired me as I made the film, because it is the essence of this story to me. “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.”

Cali Bondad & Gabrielle Canon (Runner-up)

OUR VOICES ARE RARELY HEARD

What personal experience inspired you to make this film?

Gabrielle Canon (Reporter/Producer): In the years I spent reporting on the criminal justice system I often had the opportunity to connect and talk to inmates who shared their stories, their hopes, and their wishes to be heard. People who are perceived only as criminals are easily silenced, and the issues affecting them—and ultimately the public—are therefore easier to ignore. That’s why when I was granted media access into Pelican Bay State Prison to report on solitary confinement and the decisions being made to regulate it, I was determined to create something that would offer a glimpse into the lives of the people who were actually experiencing it. I teamed up with Cali, whose cinematic vision brought these ideas and the interviews to life, and together, we hoped to create something that would offer an introduction into an issue while providing a platform for people who are usually denied one.

Your film exemplifies the criteria for the festival, particularly compassion and empathy.  What is one message you would like viewers to take away from watching your film?  

Cali Bondad (Director): With such a heavy and complicated topic, we aimed to create an experiential piece that shows what solitary confinement looks, sounds, and feels like on a day-to-day basis. We wanted the takeaway to be in the form of a question: “Is this humane? Is this right?” Ultimately, our hopes would be for the viewer to explore the topic further, read the in-depth article Gabrielle wrote on solitary confinement, conduct their own research, and start their own conversations. Inmates are often not given a voice and it’s easy for their needs, ideas, and experiences to be dismissed. We hoped this film would not only offer a platform to highlight these issues but also serve as a way for viewers to connect and relate to a group of people they might not otherwise see or hear.

 Your film makes an impactful statement without advocacy or judgment; talk about that approach to storytelling and why it’s effective.

Cali Bondad: In making the film, we wanted the inmates’ stories to speak for themselves. From the beginning we approached the issue as observers and did not want to instruct our viewers about how to feel or what to think—we just wanted to show them what was happening and provide an opportunity to connect and relate. By focusing on the human elements, the film offers an entryway for viewers to explore and understand the ethical implications involved. Many of us don’t see what goes on inside these prisons and shouldn’t be as simple as “out of sight, out of mind.” The film offers a reminder that despite their isolation, these inmates continue to live, breath, eat, and dream as we all do.

How can filmmaking and positive media transform the way we treat ourselves and others?

Cali Bondad: As a filmmaker, the greatest success I can accomplish is to give a voice to those that might not have the platform otherwise.

Films are all about creating connections between people. The best effect that positive media can have is to link people together, to create new communities, to spark conversations, to inspire change even if it seems small at first.

Gabrielle Canon: There’s also that old journalism aphorism, “If it bleeds, it leads,” but I think the response to positive media—especially with films—shows that there are other ways to share compelling stories while still engaging and impacting the audience.

Do you have a daily practice/routine/ritual?

Cali Bondad: I try to practice intent listening every day. You can learn something from anyone and everyone, but you have to be open to it. There are amazing stories all around you – you just have to stay curious and listen.

Do you have a favorite quote you can share?

Cali Bondad: “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” – Gloria Steinem

Jesse Gustafson (Special Mention)

DAY 39

What personal experience inspired you to make this film?

Being deployed as a 19-year-old US Army soldier as a peacekeeper to post-genocide Bosnia in the 90s, the thing that stuck me most – and the thing I was not prepared for – was the humanity I found there.

Your film exemplifies the criteria for the festival, particularly compassion and empathy.  What is one message you would like viewers to take away from watching your film?

I would like them to understand the human experience of warfare – the struggle of life and death from both sides – a little more.

On a practical note, when you see an American veteran, if you have never deployed, you will not understand what they’ve experienced – it’s monumental, it might be the biggest thing they’re ever going to go through in their entire lives. They touched history. It’s hard to walk away from that and return to a society that doesn’t understand it. My hope would be that a general audience begins to understand this a little more after watching the film. I would also like for veterans to feel like their experiences are being included in the artistic fold.

Your film makes an impactful statement without advocacy or judgement; talk about that approach to storytelling and why it’s effective.

I prefer stories where the filmmaker’s opinion takes a back seat to the emotions of the film. Everyone has different opinions, especially in today’s culture and political climate. It’s easy to tune out something you don’t already believe in.

The one thing we have in common is emotions and the human experience. My belief is, if you can tap into that you can speak to a lot of people.

How can filmmaking and positive media transform the way we treat ourselves and others?

Watching a great film should show you something new in a way that undeniably grabs you. It should show you something you didn’t know, or make you feel something you didn’t know you felt, and hopefully teach you something new about yourself and the world.

Do you have a daily practice/routine/ritual?

I walk for a few miles every morning before I start working. I cook dinner every night. My schedule is pretty erratic and those are the routines that have survived over the years.

Do you have a favorite quote you can share?

“What he could do, he did.” from The Death of a Moth by Virginia Woolf

James Francis Khehtie (Special Mention)

THE TELEGRAM MAN

Your film exemplifies the criteria for the festival, particularly compassion and empathy. What is one message you would like viewers to take away from watching your film?

To make the most of our ability to think for ourselves as prejudice is often the result of unfounded popular opinions.

Your film makes an impactful statement without advocacy or judgment; talk about that approach to storytelling and why it’s effective.

My approach is to present a situation that the audience might be unaware of and let them think for themselves about the situation.

How can filmmaking and positive media transform the way we treat ourselves and others?

I think films, if used in a positive way, can open our eyes and mind to situations we were previously unaware of and encourage us to think for ourselves, rather than simply agreeing with popular opinions.

Do you have favorite quotes you can share?

“Wars, conflict – it’s all business. One murder makes a villain; millions, a hero. Numbers sanctify, my good fellow!”

“It’s the approach of death that terrifies. I suppose, if the unborn knew of the approach of life, they’d be just as terrified.”

Both lines are from Charlie Chaplin’s 1947 film MONSIEUR VERDOUX.

Add comment

RELATED CONTENT
Trending Videos
Trending Podcasts
EXPLORE MORE CONTENT

“The more you thank life, the more life gives you to be thankful for.”

– Anonymous

article

What World Would YOU Rather?

A Few Questions for Jayashri Wyatt - Creative Director and Special Event Manager for World Humanitarian Day at United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

video

1-800-Give-Us-Your-Kidney

Directed by Samantha Smith (USA)

Winner-Award-Laurels

This short documentary recounts one man's decision to donate one of his kidneys to a complete stranger.
17 m

video

Free to Laugh

Directed by Lara Everly (USA)

A comedy workshop featuring improvisation, performance and stand up comedy is given to women recently released from prison.
15 m

video

Day 39

Directed by Jesse Gustafson (USA)

Winner-Award-Laurels

A young soldier on his first deployment to Afghanistan is asked to assist a seasoned ranger medic.
15 m

video

The Other Human

Directed by Ryan Chapman (UK)

This short film follows a warm-hearted Athenian who believes ‘no victims are necessary’ while a humanitarian crisis unfolds in Europe.
4 m

video

Our Voices Are Rarely Heard

US Premiere — Directed by Cali Bondad (USA)

Winner-Award-Laurels

This short documentary offers a visceral snapshot at how inmates survive solitary confinement.
5 m

video

Three Best Friends Fought and Survived Ebola in Sierra Leone

Directed by Leanne Welham (UK)

The story of three male nurses who survived Ebola celebrate the end of the epidemic.
8 m

video

The Telegram Man

Directed by James Francis Khehtie (AUS)

Winner-Award-Laurels

A close-knit Australian farming community confronts the human cost of war on the homefront during World War II.
14 m

video

Shanghai Tulip

Directed by Shanshan Chen (China)

Stigmatized for his bipolar disorder and unable to find help, Chen Wei created China’s first depression support group.
11 m
CLOSE
CLOSE