Earth Charter — “RIVER BEND FILM FESTIVAL: Hoosier filmmaker seeks to change culture through film”

Leandra Beabout, “RIVER BEND FILM FESTIVAL: Hoosier filmmaker seeks to change culture through film,” The Goshen News, April 26 2018

Hoosier filmmaker Sam Mirpoorian has always rooted for the underdog.

First mesmerized by the “Harry Potter” film series as a child, he still hunts for stories highlighting under-the-radar protagonists, the voiceless, even the down and out. His created his first feature-length film, “Under the Bridge: The Criminalization of Homelessness,” while still in college. The documentary featured a tent community in the state capital. His latest piece, “Destination Park,” spotlights a group of truck drivers “deep within Trump’s America,” according to the official synopsis, as they confide their greatest fears to a Midwest chaplain in a mobile church.

And then there’s “Little Warriors,” the unlikely story of a group of kids who convinced their local politicians to pass a resolution on climate recovery.

“I don’t see myself as wanting to be a Michael Moore,” Mirpoorian said. “I wouldn’t say (I’m) political. Social would be the best way to describe (my films). Social issues.”

“Little Warriors” straddles the political-social line well. When Mirpoorian started the documentary, it was a class project, his senior capstone for the Media Arts and Science (MAS) program at the IU School of Informatics at IUPUI. But it didn’t take long to morph into something more.

He explained, “It’s about a group of kids between the ages of 8 and 20 years old in the city of Indianapolis that get their city council to adopt and pass a Climate Recovery Resolution. … Technically it’s a resolution, not a bill, but the city is abiding by it. They’re doing energy-saving options, write-offs with the way they emit emissions through government buildings and cars.”

The film features Jim Poyser, who runs a youth climate leadership program for Earth Charter Indiana.

“We basically exist to inspire young people to have their voice heard on the important issue of climate change. They will be bearing the brunt of the mess that we’ve made of this planet, so it’s important that they get engaged now in solutions instead of waiting til they are adults,” Poyser explained.

Mirpoorian and his capstone project showed up at the perfect time, according to Poyser. A group of youth was about to lead the charge in Indianapolis, and the college student arrived in time to film their preparations and their presentations to the city council.

“Working with a college student on climate change was right on with my mission in my life,” Poyser said. “I felt like I was on the cusp of something really interesting. Having Sam there along the way almost felt like a magical coincidence.”

Mirpoorian shot footage from February to May of 2017. His project presentation was due at the beginning of May.

“I cut the film in four days, which wasn’t smart because I stayed up for like 70 hours straight,” he revealed. “To be honest, it was a rough cut when I showed it and turned it in. I still got an A, but … I was editing the film until later in 2017.”

The editing paid off. Since then, “Little Warriors” has been screened on PBS and at several film festivals — eight by the end of the season, according to Mirpoorian.

Mirpoorian, now 25 years old, admitted he had high hopes or the film, but didn’t know what to expect.

“Jim and the kids, it’s a story worth sharing and worth telling. They’re doing something cool and inspiring. When I was that age, I wish I was involved in that activism,” he said, adding that being fresh out of college gives him the opportunity to explore more social issues through his lens.

“I’m just at the right age right now where I can do these kinds of things with minimal consequences, repercussion or backfire. … I think people should just be consciously aware of these things. For me, I find it interesting. I find it interesting to go through and talk to all these people. I want to do narratives, but … I’m having fun doing what I’m doing right now.”

Poyser added that though debates about the environment can be heated, the film has always received smiles and applause.

“I think people are yearning for a feel-good story about how Republicans and Democrats are not at odds over an issue that is supposed to be controversial. … Our theory was, if you get young people to research a subject and then to respectfully engage adults in issues around that subject, they’re very hard to ignore,” he said. After a pause, he added, “And I think this film proves that different parties can work together, different generations can work together, that when we give kids the opportunity to speak up, they can change the culture.”

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