b-side chats: Our talk with those behind HBO’s “A Small Act” who show the importance of small gifts
A young teacher from a modest home in Sweden sent a small donation through a school’s global education fundraiser. Years later, Hilde Back, a Holocaust survivor, discovers that her small act actually changed the lives of hundreds of children in Kenya, by changing the course of one man’s life, Chris Mburu.
We were excited to talk to Jennifer Arnold, the filmmaker, and Mburu now a top human rights lawyer. Their documentary film “A Small Act” premiering July 13th on HBO, shows that whoever saved Back in Germany from the Holocaust also helped lots of Kenyan children because, says Back, “If you do something good, it will spread in circles, like circles in the water.”
Her small act translated to 15 Kenyan dollars per month. What seems a small amount is actually priceless, because in Kenya, if you are one of the brightest students in elementary school, if your parents can’t afford to send you to high school, you have little to no hope of attending college. Back’s donation was enough to send Chris Mburu through school, Harvard University Law (on a Fulbright Scholarship), and he became a lawyer at the UN fighting for fundamental civil rights. Now Mburu, has returned the favor, with the Hilde Back Education Fund he started in Back’s honor.
Kimani a child featured in the film, in the running for the grant for school, says that if he gets an education, he will be an open-minded person who will help everyone, stop the fighting and promote peace. Ruth, another child applicant, says that she wants knowledge, “no matter what her life is like.”
The film can make the toughest hearts melt. Filmmaker Arnold and lead, Mburu, told us what happened after screening the film at the Sundance Film Festival. One member of the audience wrote out a $5,000 check for donation to the Hilde Back Education Fund. Another member matched up with his own $5,000 check. The next check was for $20,000, and so on until the Fund accumulated $90,000 from its audience over a course of the next 10 days.
“I hope people will take away from this film the concept that it does not take much to create change around you. It only takes one small action,” Mburu said in our interview. “Don’t get overwhelmed by the world’s infinite needs. You can’t do everything. Take one step at a time. This film really showed how empowering an individual can be.”
Back even said in the film that she forgot she sent the donation. In fact, when she heard from Mburu, who sought his mysterious sponsor years later during the course of the film to finally thank her, she thought it was joke. She said, “I could never expect myself to be a hero.”
Back’s small act inspires strong relationships outside this film and across communities unfamiliar with each other. And even people at the very top were waiting in line to shake their hands. Arnold said, “Ban ki-Moon [UN Secretary General] introduced our film and Bill Gates was touched during its screening. We couldn’t believe it.”
Arnold and Mburu became very close with the children and families of those featured in the film. The children write to them and text them whenever they get hold of a cell phone. Arnold and her crew returned to Kenya for a big village premiere of the film. Families took a break from their day’s work to watch the film across a screen the filmmakers built from sticks. Here, Kimani told the filmmakers he wants to be a neurosurgeon. Ruth another child featured wears more confidence than before, according to Arnold, and says she wants to be a lawyer. Caroline, the third child featured in the film, wants to be a model.
Join this movement and make your own small act! “A Small Act” has partnered with Network for Good, an HBO supported organization which offers 1.8 million causes and volunteer opportunities in your own communities. Visit their site to get involved. Also, press the “like” button on “A Small Act”‘s Facebook page to share your own “small act” story to get a gift card which is redeemable for any charity at Network for Good.
Please watch and do whatever you can, because small acts make a huge difference:
A Small Act, premieres on HBO on July 13 at 9:00 PM, with additional broadcast times on July 15 (12:30 PM and 12:30 AM), July 18 (11:45 AM), July 20 (9:00 AM an
d 7:30 PM) and July 24 (4:00 PM). It also airs on HBO2 on July 14 (9:45 PM) and July 31 (9:30 AM).
July 12, 2010 by Priya
Tags: A Small Act, Ban ki-Moon, Bill Gates, Chris Mburu, documentary, education, ethnic violence, genocide, HBO, HBO docs, Hilde Back, Hilde Back Education Fund, Holocaust, homepage, human rights, Jennifer Arden, Kenya, Network for Good, poverty, Sundance Film Festival
1 Comment »
One Response to “b-side chats: Our talk with those behind HBO’s “A Small Act” who show the importance of small gifts”
it's a different world says:
Posted: July 14, 2010 at 2:28 PM
Post a Comment