Much to learn in a third world slum |

Much to learn in a third world slum

In the slums of Calcutta, India, Salim possesses a smile that knows how effort can fuel the engine of hope. His eyes may have more inspiration to offer than his words. Regardless, at age 12, he already expresses words well.

In the documentary, “The Revolutionary Optimists,” Salim says, “I have reached the position of child advisor.” Earlier on, as he started organizing neighborhood kids, he said, “You need to have the courage of a daredevil.” A daredevil against the odds perhaps, Salim seems already poised in a nonabrasive and constructive style.

It’s probably safe to say that first-world hopes travel a different spectrum than waiting for years to see the first running tap of drinkable water in a neighborhood of 9,000 people.

It’s probably safe to say that first-world pre-teens never hoped to escape working in a brick-making field, never slid toward getting married and having babies by age 14 … as if it were a better life path than balancing eight bricks on your head, 200 times each working day.

See what a revolutionary optimist like Salim does for himself and for the kids who join him in efforts fueling the engine of hope. While he’s aiming at more ambitious things, Salim also organizes a soccer tournament. The atypical flavor of this includes boys and girls competing side by side.

As you might expect, there is an adult mentor in the picture. Amlan Ganguly runs a school where there was no school. He dials a balanced sense of time and forbearance into his forthright and gentle guidance. Artistic expression is as important as reading, writing and arithmetic. In the deepest of slums, Google Maps plays a practical role in a special way. Shared personal reflection is part of an education. So is activism.

Mostly spoken in Hindi with subtitles, “The Revolutionary Optimists” (at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Nevada Theatre) is a different brand of experience than the words “revolution” and “optimism” might suggest. Amid crowded poverty in India, there is much to learn from the teacher and especially the students in this film.

Chuck Jaffee of Nevada City likes to plug people into the spirit of independent filmmakers. Find his other articles for The Union at

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