“If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him. We must never forget that
art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth.”
–President John F. Kennedy
As one of the first initiatives during his administration, President John Kennedy issued an executive order when he established the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961.
The groundbreaking edict, which kickstarted the Peace Corps, motivated American civilians to volunteer their time, skills, labor and resources to travel
and work in underdeveloped countries to help change the world. Peace Corps has remained relevant today, providing poignant experiences for many Americans
and empower underprivileged people from all over the globe.
“Our own freedom and the future of freedom around the world, depend, in a very real sense, on their ability to build growing and independent nations
where men can live in dignity, liberated from the bonds of hunger, ignorance and poverty,” President Kennedy said in an address to Congress over fifty years. In the ensuing decades, hundreds of thousands of Peace Corps volunteers have
continued to serve with great distinction to places throughout Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Some initiatives involve the building of
schools and the construction of sewer and water systems in many impoverished countries.
Taking some of the core tenets of the Peace Corps, Filmmakers without Borders
, a non-profit based in Manhattan, has provided a culturally specific framework for film instruction to young children in underdeveloped countries. It is a
non-profit arts organization that connects filmmaking educators with young students from schools and community organizations. The program sends US-based
film artist-educators abroad “to teach filmmaking to students in underserved communities with the goal of developing opportunities for cross-cultural
exchange.” Its educators teach filmmaking, media literacy, and 21st century technology skills to local youth in various countries for one year.
The organization “leverages an extensive network of arts educators to help overseas students gain the media literacy skills necessary to be productive
citizens and creative individuals in the 21st century,” according to its mission. “By connecting filmmakers to organizations in the developing world,
Filmmakers without Borders utilizes the digital storytelling process as a framework for youth empowerment, creative expression, and cross-cultural
Like its name suggests, the Filmmakers without Borders’ experience transcends boundaries enabling fellows to travel to many exotic countries, such as
Cambodia, Honduras, Nepal, Bhutan, India, Sierra Leone and Kenya. This initiative focuses on young children – between the ages of 11 and 18- in an effort
to maximize their creativity and ingenuity. Ultimately, the students are given the opportunity to showcase their personal stories through cinema. After
all, it was Mahatma Gandhi who once said, ‘if we are to reach real peace in this world… we shall begin with children.’
Such organizations partnering with Filmmakers without Borders include the Bhutan Foundation, Children for Change Cambodia, The Modern Story, The Craig
Bellamy Foundation, Volunteer Initiative Nepal and more. The class size ranges from 10 to 15 students. Fellows are fully funded and are provided with film
equipment along with being located in a school that speaks English.
“Our mission is to provide opportunities for cultural exchange and to empower students to tell their own stories,’ says Executive Director Corey Boling. “Young participants will be
given the opportunity to communicate through cinema their own deep truth. [This is] particularly poignant since they continue to struggle within their own
borders,” he adds. Before becoming the non profit organization’s founder, , Boling worked at the Tribeca Film Institute, the Educational Video Center and
the Museum of the Moving Image. He is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh. Beth Grannis, the organization’s Deputy Director who oversees all aspects
of the organization’s operations and programming, also has worked in different film companies, like Charlotte Street Films and Scott Rudin Productions.
“The Filmmakers without Borders team’s collective experience ranges from the fields of international development and nonprofit management to youth media
and the indie film industry,” adds Boling. The initiative was recently approved by Kickstarter
to help generate more funds to ensure the initiative remains a successful non-profit organization. Kickstarter, the global crowd-funding platform with a
stated mission to help bring creative projects to life, endorsed Filmmakers without Borders after receiving $23,365 of pledged support from 117 backers.
“We also help students produce a student film festival in each country at the end of the year,” reminds Boling. There will be a panel discussion by staff
of Filmmakers without Borders at the Bushwick Film Festival in
October. The film festival will also be partnering up to screen the student films at the various sites.
Another adage by President Kennedy crystalizes the collective ethos behind Filmmakers without Borders:
“The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can
dream of things that never were and ask “why not?”,
queried the 35th President. For Mr. Boling and his team who seek to change the world for the better through the marriage of filmmaking and education: WHY NOT INDEED?