Friday, March 3, 2017

MONIFF Announces 2017 Jonathan Daniels Award Winner

From the Monadnock International Film Festival in Keene, NH:

MONIFF Announces 2017 Jonathan Daniels Award Winner

KEENE- The Monadnock International Film Festival (MONIFF) will present its prestigious Jonathan Daniels Award to Beth Murphy for her documentary film, What Tomorrow Brings.  The award honors filmmakers whose work shines a light on social responsibility and celebrates selfless acts. Local hero Jonathan Daniels was a Keene native and seminarian activist who sacrificed his life during the Civil Rights movement in 1965 to save the life of a teenage black girl, 16-year old Ruby Sales.

The Jonathan Daniels Award night is the highlight of the annual festival and will be presented after the film screening at the Colonial Theatre, Saturday, April 22nd. Last year’s recipient was New Hampshire native Brian Oakes who directed the documentary, Jim, The James Foley Story, about his boyhood friend.

Raised in Connecticut as the daughter of two teachers, Murphy’s film explores the impact of the first-ever girls school in a traditional Muslim village in rural Afghanistan. The school opened in 2009 amidst much skepticism and apprehension, especially from the male village elders. Their support was reluctant and conditional in the first years.

But hearts and minds can change, and Murphy said the changes were greater and faster than she ever imagined. “My mother was the first in her family to go to college, and it meant that I would go to college. I know how education can change people’s lives, but I didn’t know what to expect in Afghanistan.”

Despite facing obstacles of extreme poverty, the Taliban, and forced child marriages, every single girl who enrolled that first year in school graduated. “I’ve always believed in the power of education, but the impact of education in Afghanistan is even more notable. Before this school, the girls only saw a life of servitude for themselves. Now they see so much more,” Murphy said. Some of the girls hope to continue their studies and become doctors and teachers.

Murphy and the school’s founder Razia Jan knew that the village elders’ attitudes had to change to make things better for the girls. And change they did; there has been an enormous cultural shift in less than a decade. The same men who tried to keep the girls school from ever opening, attended the first high school graduation in 2015. And they stepped forward last year to lay the first stones for the women’s college that the village is building right next to the girls K-12 school. Fathers who use their thumbprints to sign their names, are proud of their daughters who speak and write English, as well as their native language.

“It takes courage for these girls to go to school each day, but school has given them confidence and hope and imagination of what else is possible,” Murphy said.

Information about film festival passes and program schedule can be found at moniff.org.