Award-winning filmmaker to discuss her work with WU students, staff

by University Communications,

After spending three and a half years in India, physician and award-winning filmmaker Maren Grainger-Monsen created the film, “The Revolutionary Optimists.”

On Feb. 12 and 13, she will visit the Willamette campus to talk about her experiences and share the finished product.

“I am really interested in learning what energizes Willamette students and what inspires people,” says Grainger-Monsen, who co-directed and co-produced the film with Nicole Newnham. “After working on the film for five years, I love to show it and have discussions. To hear other people’s responses opens a whole new world.”

Grainger-Monsen is the director of the Bioethics Program and Film at the Stanford University Center for Biomedical Ethics. She studied film at the London International Film School and received her medical training at the University of Washington and Stanford University School of Medicine.

During her time at Willamette, she will visit a few biology and medical anthropology classes, speak about her experiences at convocation, and present her film, “The Revolutionary Optimists.”

“The Revolutionary Optimists” is a documentary that follows Amlan Ganguly, a former lawyer in Calcutta, as he and three children from the slums fight for a better future. Ganguly works to empower children in India so they may battle poverty and transform their neighborhoods.

The free screening will begin Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. in Ford Hall. Afterward, an interdisciplinary panel will discuss the film and contemporary health issues with Grainger-Monsen.

Grainger-Monsen will also be the featured speaker at convocation Feb. 13 at 11:30 a.m. in Cone Chapel, where she will further discuss her work.

“This film will promote conversations across the campus among those who care about ethics, human well being, and the world we all live in,” biology professor Dave Craig says. “‘Revolutionary Optimists’ should inspire everyone and will challenge us all to take on serious ethical issues.”

Grainger-Morsen’s films are shown in more than 750 institutions nationally, including 40% of all U.S. medical schools. In addition, they are used for internal staff trainings at important medical organizations and play a large role in policy reform — such as influencing the UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing) Board of Directors’ decision to increase access to kidney transplants to minorities.

“I love using a narrative to trigger debates about health and contemporary health issues,” Grainger-Monsen says. “By engaging with a story, you can change the world.”

Craig says Grainger-Monsen will inspire students and help them look at their studies in a new way.

“Maren is a great role model of how, through personal commitment and invention, you can make a career doing what you love,” he says. “Her personal story of becoming an MD, who is also keenly drawn to art and film, was something I knew would resonate with Willamette students.”

Article by Natalie Pate ’15, politics and French/Francophone studies major