Tuesday, January 04, 2011

A Small Act

Simply inspired tonight.

Thanks to M, I went to a free screening of the documentary A Small Act, tonight at the Hammer Museum in Westwood. This film by Jennifer Arnold, which premiered on HBO last summer and packed them in at Sundance among other film festivals last year and that I'd embarrassingly never heard of, is about a woman living in Sweden who many years ago sponsored an African child so he could attend school in Kenya.

Every month Hilde Back sent about $15 to make sure that Chris Mburu could remain in school, which isn't free. Thanks to Hilde's generosity he goes to university and then Harvard Law School and is now a human rights lawyer with the United Nations based in Switzerland but travels the world.

And if that isn't enough a compelling enough tale, Hilde is a Holocaust survivor who emigrated to Sweden as a little girl, without her parents because they weren't allowed into Sweden. She was never wealthy, but just someone who thought that helping others was important.

Now in addition to his work with the UN, Chris has set up a foundation in Kenya to help students similar to him so that they can attend school. This might be the coolest example of paying it forward EVER. My favorite idea expressed in the movie was spoken by Chris's sister, who is also doing human rights work at the UN thanks to a mirrored path toward education. Essentially she said that despite how enormous and intractable a problem seems, one can never help too little.

After the screening Arnold, along with Producer Jeffrey Soros and Producer/Director of Photography Patti Lee participated in a brief Q&A and reported that thanks to the movie, the program has expanded from helping 10 students in one section of the country to between 200-300 this year. And smartly, they are patiently trying to increase the reach so as not to expand beyond their infrastructural capacity, Arnold said.

I wish I took advantage of more of these opportunities. Los Angeles abounds with them and thus I have a slightly late New Year's resolution. I am passing on the vague "read and exercise more" resolution which always fails despite it's total non-specificity. I am replacing it with attend a screening/book reading/freeorcheap speech/museum talk at least every other month. If I can't make that happen then I don't even deserve to live here.


conbon said...

Wonderful New Years Resolution! I heard of "A Small Act." Glad to hear you found it inspiring.

Jen Arnold said...

Wow! Very happy the film spurred a new years resolution. There are so many great docs out there (and films in general) that people never hear of or see. So thanks for blogging this one!