One of my many ongoing projects, the Be the Change series highlights fascinating who people I meet during my travels. These are folks who are doing the hard work of changing the world for the better by living our their passions and sharing their gifts. Subjects are chosen by me with no committee or proposal process, so if you know of a person or project that you think is doing something that is making the world a more just, compassionate and peaceful place feel free to let me know.
Last week during a trip to Chicago, I was contacted by a social entrepreneur, Malachi Leopold, asking me if I was interested in helping to spread the word a about a new film project he is working on called, “I am the Water, You are the Sea.” After watching the initial teaser on Kickstarter, I was intrigued by the story, I invited him to come and hang out with a bunch of us at an impromptu meet-up so he could meet some other people in Chicago who I felt might find a connection with his the project. We had a great conversation and out of that, I came up with this idea about offering my blog space to help people get the word out about meaningful projects.
So first in an ongoing series of posts that share the work of people doing amazing things for good, here is a video of Malachi talking about the project and then my quick “interview” with the Chicago-based filmmaker.
Tell us little about yourself . . . who is Malachi Leopold?
I’m a social entrepreneur who believes we have the ability to address the world’s most pressing challenges through the principals and discipline of entrepreneurship and innovation. Personally, I do this as a producer and director through my company Left Brain/Right Brain Productions. More about me . . . preacher’s kid and former Evangelical Christian; married with 2 cats; in the last 2 years have been to Sudan, Gaza, and the Congo – dying to go to London or Paris!; have qualified for the Academy Awards for a film I directed in Sudan; have been held against my will in a prison in the Congo while doing work for victims of sexual violence.
Tell me a little about “I am the Water, You are the Sea” and how did you get involved in it?
“I am the Water, You are the Sea” tells the true story of my uncle, a former American Peace Corps volunteer who went to Iran in 1967. While there, he met and fell in love with an Iranian Muslim man. They kept their relationship secret for 10 years. When the Iranian revolution happened, my uncle was forced to leave. But they kept in touch, kept their love alive, and now, more than 33 years since their separation, they’re finally being united for the first time. I’ll be traveling with my uncle to the Middle East to film their reunion this fall.
I got involved with the film about 2 years ago when I began working with my uncle on documenting the story of his time in Iran. I knew it was an amazing story, but I didn’t know how incredible it was until he started writing everything down. We spent 2 years going back and forth with emails exploring the entire story, from start to finish. We just wrapped getting the full story down on paper this April.
In 10 years, what do you hope people will be saying about “I am the Water, You are the Sea?”
My intent is nothing less than social change. To me, change means more than just making a difference. Change means there’s size, there’s scale, there’s critical mass, and it’s self-sustaining.
I hope this film becomes regarded as one of the most important and influential films of the decade. And my hope is also that people think of it as one of the most beautiful, poignant, and inspiring films they’ve ever seen. Regardless of whether or not a viewer is gay or straight, I want them to feel like this was a movie that grabbed them, wouldn’t let them go. Made them feel like there’s nothing in their life that they can’t overcome, and made them think there’s nothing more important than loving our neighbors in the here and now – whether that neighbor is literally next door, or lives in a country thousands of miles away.
How can people get connected to and support the project: links, events, etc.?
We have to raise $25,000 by the end of June, so the first way people can help us is to make a donation to the kickstarter campaign using this link: http://j.mp/alexandali. The minimum pledge is only $10. The second way is to share the link to the kickstarter campaign with their friends and contacts – whether that be on their facebook wall or their twitter feed or an e-blast. The third way is to promote the project thru an event during Pride month this June – this could be a private fundraiser they do with friends, like a wine and cheese party, or doing lunch with a couple of people who might be interested in making a donation. Another way could be to hang a poster in their business, or distribute the film’s postcards (I can email a PDF or Photoshop file of the postcard or poster to individuals interested in helping). People can also help by blogging about the film, sharing the story with media contacts which can help spread the word as well.
Pay it forward a bit . . . what are 2-3 projects, companies or people who you think are doing some good work in the world?
Well, I think one of the individuals who really inspired me to think about how I could use business to create positive social change is entrepreneur and philanthropist Bobby Sager – I met him when I attended his daughter’s bat mitzvah in Boston a few years ago. I saw some pictures of the work he was doing in Rwanda, heard about other efforts he was starting in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan – it’s amazing, inspiring work.
As far as organizations are concerned, it’s funny – most of my life, I’ve actually had very positive experiences with lawyers. The most positive experience has recently been working with the American Bar Association’s Rule of Law Initiative. They’re doing work in over 40 countries around the world, bringing justice and support for the rule of law. The work they’re doing in the Congo, for example, combating sexual violence, is just incredible. They’re also combating slavery in Liberia, working on women’s rights in various countries throughout the Middle East and Asia, assisting with constitutional reform – they’ll be rolling our programs in South Sudan as the country becomes independent this July. The list goes on, it’s an amazing organization.
Other people I really admire include my little brother Charlie, who’s been working in Peru these last few months, doing work in remote villages; my 2 brother’s-in-law who are deployed in Afghanistan and the Middle East, both for their second tours with the Marines and Navy; my friend, entrepreneur and collaborator Scotty Cadenhead; Eboo Patel of Interfaith Youth Core; Iega Jeff of Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre; Mark Achler at redbox . . . This list also goes on. A lot of inspiring people doing great work.