FAQ

WHERE IS SIMA RAMA?

Cyberspace! SIMA RAMA is a completely online film experience. Even the panel and podcast discussions (Impact Talks) are hosted online.

HOW ARE THE FILMS CHOSEN?

We select award-winning films from the annual international SIMA Awards. Obviously, we can’t talk about every social issue every month (as much as we’d like to) but with access to the most relevant stories and most powerful filmmaking from over 140 countries, we are sure to bring you the most cutting-edge contemporary impact cinema.

WHY WE RAMA?

We screened SIMA films across 6 continents for the past 5 years and witnessed the demand to build a global online community around today’s most pressing issues. We asked ourselves: What if people around the world saw the same doc each month and crowdsourced solutions to the issue it illuminates? We are here to find out.

WHAT ARE THE MEMBERSHIP FEES?

  • $5 per month – MONTHLY recurring subscription (first month free/ cancel anytime)
  • $55 a year – YEARLY recurring subscription
  • $60 a year – One Time YEARLY subscription. Membership expires after 1 Year.

WHAT DOES THE MEMBERSHIP FEE COVER?

It covers your annual access to 12 featured films, 12 curated Action and Bonus Feature kits, and 12 panel discussions, in addition to providing the cost of film rights and platform management. SIMA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Los Angeles, California dedicated to advancing cross-cultural understanding, human rights and education by supporting and amplifying the works of content creators on the front-lines of social change.

CAN I CANCEL MY MEMBERSHIP?

Yes, if you’re paying monthly you can cancel at anytime. The cancellation will go into effect within 30 days. If you’ve paid annually, no refunds can be issued.

HOW CAN I SUBSCRIBE?

Join the club right here.

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SUPPORT

  • Patagonia Action Works connects committed individuals to organizations working on environmental issues in the same community. It’s now possible for anyone to discover and connect with environmental action groups and get involved with the work they do.
  • Conscious businesses and companies: https://bcorporation.net/
  • Organizations working on environmental justice and climate action:

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  • Host a Screening of Elemental in your Community
  • Sign the petition to re-establish the climate change education on Environment Protection Agency  (EPA) website
  • Request 100% renewable energy from your Department of Water and Power.
  • Advocate for SDG#13: Climate Change
  • Pull your money out of banks that are funding the Dakota Access Pipeline.If you can’t divest, Contact executives of the 37 banks and tell them how you feel about their investment in DAPL. Use hashtags #DivestDAPL #DefundDAPL and #NoDAPL.

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  • Reporters without borders – Promotes and defends freedom of information and freedom of the press.
  • Sahar Speaks – Produces high-quality journalism from Afghan female correspondents in a global media outlet.
  • Freedom Of The Press Foundation –  Helping support and defend public-interest journalism focused on exposing mismanagement, corruption, and lawbreaking in government.
  • The Op Ed ProjectIncreasing the range of voices and quality of ideas we hear in the world.  A starting goal is to

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  • Host a Screening of Frame by Frame in your Community
  • Sign the petition to urge UN Secretary General to appoint a protector of journalists
  • Advocate for SDG#16: Peace and Justice and SDG #5: Gender Equality and and Women’s Empowerment
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  • Choose conscious businesses and certified sustainable companies like B Corporations when deciding where to consume, to invest or to work.
  • Advocate for the Sustainable Development Goals

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Filmmaker Interview with Director Mo Scarpelli

 Farzana Wahidy, FRAME BY FRAME, Production Still

 

After decades of war and an oppressive Taliban regime, four Afghan photojournalists face the realities of building a free press in a country left to stand on its own — reframing Afghanistan for the world and for themselves.

When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, taking a photo was a crime. After the regime fell from power in 2001, a fledgling free press emerged and a photography revolution was born. Now, as foreign troops and media withdraw, Afghanistan is left to stand on its own, and so are its journalists. Set in a modern Afghanistan bursting with color and character, FRAME BY FRAME follows four Afghan photojournalists as they navigate an emerging and dangerous media landscape — reframing Afghanistan for the world, and for themselves. Through cinema vérité, intimate interviews, powerful photojournalism, and never-before-seen archival footage shot in secret during the Taliban regime, the film connects audiences with four humans in the pursuit of the truth.

FRAME BY FRAME Directors, Alexandria Bombach (left) and Mo Scarpelli (right)

What motivated you to make this film?

[Mo Scarpelli] In 2012, we traveled to Afghanistan in search of a story about perception — how and why do we form our perceptions of a country at war? And how does this intersect what is actually happening on the ground? In Kabul, we met four incredible local photojournalists. They are deeply embedded in the past, present, and future of their country, and their own truths inform their will to take ownership of Afghanistan’s story and reveal a humanness that is rarely captured by foreign media.

We knew that their stories could bridge what often feels like an insurmountable divide between Afghans and Western audiences.

The world is hankering for a more in-depth and honest view of life in today’s Afghanistan and the issues Afghans face as they stand on their own to rebuild the country. We also knew that this story couldn’t be more timely. Right now, the future of Afghanistan is mired in uncertainty. The government has just transitioned power to a new president. U.S. security forces are pulling out, foreign media is shuttering bureaus, and aid — which helped jumpstart Afghanistan’s free press movement — is dwindling. After more than 13 years of historical growth, free press stands as one of Afghanistan’s most viable hopes for political and social stability. Now is the time to shed light on the realities of building free press in a country whose future may depend on it.

What are a few memorable takeaways from your experience making this film?

So many! Production was an incredible experience. The photographers were very open with us and understood (as storytellers themselves) what we wanted to do. They trusted us, which is an immense privilege. Afghanistan’s golden light, beautiful scenery and colorful streets made it easy on us — everywhere we went, we found inspiration to make a beautiful film. Post-production was very difficult at times, because we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do the subjects’ stories justice… but it was then so rewarding to find an audience connecting deeply with them when the film was done. One of the most amazing things was when the four photographers visited the US for several festivals, and we got to know them as friends. This was a life-changing time for everyone involved.

Is your story what you thought it would be–how did it evolve from day one, to the very last day in post?

Everything changes all the time! But we knew from the start this had to be a story about human beings, and tapping into who they are, giving a very deep and honest glimpse of their experience. That notion remained throughout every stage of the process.

Any developments since releasing FRAME BY FRAME?

We have recently screened the film for the President of Afghanistan, along with the US Embassy, National Press Club and other institutions with decision-making power for free press issues — the reactions have been incredibly visceral and we are hoping the film stays with those who work on protecting local journalists anywhere in the world. There’s also an update at the end of the film on what the subjects are working on.

If you could narrow it down, what’s one film that has inspired your filmmaking career most?

ONLY THE YOUNG

What’s your favorite part about the filmmaking process?

Surprises. Everything goes ‘wrong’ in documentary in that nothing pans out the way you may have thought it would. But when you see that as an opportunity to shift the story or make the obstacles a part of the story, and when you trust it will turn out fine, it’s a sweet wild ride.

What did you shoot on?

Canon 5D, a little with the Canon C300. We needed a reliable work-horse camera, light-weight and easy to move quickly with. Also, the subjects of the film use the same / similar cameras, so we could blend in with them + other photographers in the press pool, etc. while shooting with the 5D.

What were a few stylistic choices or techniques that you used to help tell your story?

We wanted to make a beautiful, cinematic film — we had never seen a documentary that captured the immense beauty of the country before. So, it was important to us to take our time, be diligent and intention in the cinematography. We were inspired by and to try our best to create images that would even come close to the incredible photography of the subjects in the film.

What’s one item you always take with you when shooting out in the field?

Quarters… great tripod key!

What advice can you give to other impact filmmakers?

Go for it!

Filmmaker Interview with Producer Mark Weber

What motivated you to make this film?

Our director Michael Matheson Miller has a very interesting background with a masters in philosophy, a masters in international business in Europe, and a masters in international development in Japan. In this film, you see those three fields come together. Michael was discouraged by the social engineering mindset embedded in international development, feeling that the people we label “the poor” were being treated as objects with categorical programming that failed to appreciate the creative capacity and destiny of the individual person. That philosophical anthropology that each human person is endowed with dignity
and creative potential is the starting point of the film’s analysis.

My own awakening to this objectification of “the poor” came in 2008 in a tribal village in Bangladesh. I was the captain of the Notre Dame Boxing Team, which since 1931 has been supporting the Catholic missions there. Our motto was “Strong bodies fight, that weak bodies may be nourished.” We used it in all of our promotion with stock photos of Bangladesh and everyone praised us for fighting for such a great cause. In the 78 years before the 2008 trip I organized, no students had ever actually been to Bangladesh because of the extreme conditions and wars there. But there we were, finally, visiting a girls’ school and listening to a Bengali priest explain who we were. “These are the Notre Dame boxers, and we are very thankful to them for supporting us for many years so you can go to school. They have a beautiful motto: Strong bodies fight, and they are the strong bodies,” he gestured to us. “So that weak bodies may be nourished, and we are the weak bodies,” he completed slowly gesturing to the girls, realizing the strangeness of what he said only as it came out of his mouth. The young women looked confused. We felt an intense discomfort and sank in our chairs, hit in the face with the embedded paternalism in our most prized motto. “Na,” one of the girls declared verbally. We are not weak. I will never forget that moment. It changed my mindset from that day forward and inspired me to be a part of this film.

 

Can you describe any obstacles you encountered in making your film and/or in your distribution/exhibition efforts?

Distribution is a real challenge because it is an ever-changing landscape and there is no one way of doing it. By the time a book is written on the subject, it’s already out of date. Our strategy involved playing the film as many places as we could. No festival was too small and it so happened that our educational and international agreement with Ro*Co Films, came from playing at the Topanga Film Festival (a person there was friends with a person at Ro*Co). We also contacted as many filmmakers as we could, interviewed them, and took careful notes on how they did distribution. Each film was different, but understanding the many possibilities helped us craft a strategy and execution plan best fit for our film.

 

What do you want audiences to take away from your film?

The title of our film is a bit of a tip-of-the-hat to one of our favorite films, FOOD, INC. That film concludes with an interview with a Walmart buyer. A decade ago, no one thought Walmart would be carrying organics. But consumers “voted” for organics in the marketplace, thus compelling Walmart to respond. This is the dollar democracy of the market economy at work.

I hope people join us in our own educational process of shifting from paternalism to partnership. We need to take that charitable desire to help others and integrate it vertically  through everything we do, not just silo it in a separate category we call philanthropy, charity, or corporate social responsibility. We need to vote for companies, nonprofits, and government leaders that treat people as persons with potential, not as the objects of our compassion.

Practically speaking, this means we don’t donate to nonprofits that are perpetuating paternalism through their models and marketing. It means we buy from companies that manufacture their products and source their materials ethically, or are at least deeply committed to improving this transparency year over year. It means we vote for leaders that uphold the institutions of justice that allow people to flourish – property rights, rule of law, and freedom.

 

Please list key points that should be covered in a post-screening discussion:

We encourage audiences to frame their discussions with the understanding that this documentary is “open-source.” It’s not designed as a closed argument that tells you what you’re supposed to do next. “What can I do?” is a question we often hear. While we appreciate the desire to help, the question itself is also representative of how stuck we are in one-size-fits-all solutions. You are unique. We couldn’t possibly portend to know what your unique path is to making the most of your talents. Our goal is to give you an interpretive key, a decoder, a way of looking at the world. Your responsibility is to use that decoder to look inside you and to look around you for opportunities to apply yourself and your principles consistently, effectively, passionately.

Specifically one thing we want to remember is that this film is not a condemnation of charity. It’s aimed at redeeming the true meaning of charity. We’ve made charity synonymous with writing a check to a cause. True charity – caritas – is a deep form of interpersonal love, where you look into the eyes of a unique person and see him or her in the fullness of who that person is. Being charitable is much more about our time and daily interactions than it is about the deductions on our tax forms. It’s time to redeem this word
by bringing attention to how much we have cheapened it.

 

Please provide information on any recent developments regarding the issue or subjects of the film. How have things changed or not changed?

This September, the Millennium Development Goals are up for renewal and they’re being redrafted as the Sustainable Development Goals. I personally believe they are a distraction from what’s really important. Policies like the U.S. Farm Bill and the Trans-Pacific Partnership are much more relevant. Furthermore, I fear the more active and well-funded the Sustainable Development Goals are, the more harm they might do. As an example, the Haitian earthquake relief was an unmitigated disaster, fraught with corruption and
incompetence that delayed Haiti’s recovery. See the NPR and HBO Vice pieces on this. Relief is an appropriate intervention for wealthy countries to make, yet we fail. If we cannot be successful with basic relief, why do we believe we can succeed in the infinitely more complicated process of development? Development is organic. It can’t be manufactured. Can you grow a hamburger in a petri dish? Yes. But is it a viable way to create food. No. And it never will be.

 

What opportunities are available for those interested in getting further involved?
Again, keeping in mind that the film is an interpretive key and there is intentionally no “donate here” button, a few ideas:
If you’re interested in law, maybe you can volunteer your time as a legal advocate to protect people’s property rights, help them navigate the legal system to be productive, and most of all, help find ways to incrementally improve legal systems and regulations that weigh people down unnecessarily.

If you’re interested in business and entrepreneurship, vertically integrate your ethos throughout your entire supply chain. Ti voglio bene, the Italians say. I will your good. This is what the actions of 21st Century business leaders should communicate to consumers, suppliers, employees, investors, and even rivals, whose competition drives innovation forward for all.

If you’re interested in nonprofits, consider the fact that you are still part of the marketplace of value exchange. Your donors give you money in exchange for good work they expect you to do. Be very aware of the pitfall intrinsic to such an exchange: the feedback loop between the donor and the end-user (the person you are trying to help) is broken. The instinct of every organization is to survive and perpetuate itself. Be wary of this as it relates to how and why you go about your work.

If you’re interested in donating, consider adopting an integrated understanding of your dollars. Don’t separate out your charitable spending and the rest of your spending. Spend consciously and intentionally in accordance with your values. Consider spending more of your time building relationships that aren’t solely predicated on you helping someone from a position of power. Sometimes people just need someone to look them in the eye and treat them as a person. Don’t give a million dollars to a foundation then never stop to talk to someone on the street. Even if you don’t give that person a dime, give that person the respect of looking them in the eye.

If you’re interested in policy, consider the words of Juan Jose Daboub, a former World Bank official from El Salvador. “We looked at many countries that had had comparable experiences, either because of some sort of war or civil strife, or for some kind of natural disaster. We looked at Chile, and we looked at countries that after World War II were totally destroyed. South Korea came into the picture, but also Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Taiwan. These were countries that had one thing in common: they removed obstacles for people to be able to take destiny to their own hands, and we wanted to emulate that. We wanted to change the role of the government from one of an orchestra director to one of a referee that addresses, that helps resolve the controversy among the different actors in society, but that do not have to over-intervene in people’s life. This was the basic thing that El Salvador was able to accomplish.”

 

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