Impact Cinema

Social Impact Cinema is an emerging field of independent documentary filmmaking that seeks to tell deep human stories that inspire a revolution of the heart. These stories capture critical, complex narratives that reflect societal problems, and some of the most essential global struggles of our time. They also serve to catalyze personal and community action in the spirit of engaged civic activism, bringing a renewed meaning to democracies driven by people power, and storytelling out of the authentic experience of humanity.

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In a world of information overload and sensationalist media, social issue documentaries provide quality content that spreads across a variety of screens, including traditional theaters and film festivals, the internet, university classrooms, outdoor public spaces, home televisions, a cell phone and other mediums. Building community cohesion across the public, institutional, governmental, and organizational sectors, social impact cinema seems to be able to travel differently in this new media ecosystem, informing people quickly and effectively through both film and multiplatform strategic outreach campaigns. In this new way, documentaries feed social movements and help develop a more conscious socio-political sphere, working to explode the traditional narrative of the status quo, and in turn, inform and influence our future creative choices.

Akicita: The Battle of Standing Rock
And She Could Be Next
Baaji Cooks by Komaaj
Humanity On The Move
Midnight Traveler
Social Impact Media Awards
Yours Truly Film

In the shadow of the largest Native American occupation since Wounded Knee, thousands of Water Protectors descend upon the Standing Rock Reservation to resist construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.​ Through a Native lens and unprecedented access, Akicita captures the spirit of a movement and its people.

For years, Native Americans have been protesting against the Dakota Access oil pipeline, a multibillion-dollar construction project that tribal leaders say is threatening sacred sites as well as the tribe’s source of drinking water.



In a polarized America, where the dual forces of white supremacy and patriarchy threaten to further erode our democracy, women of color are claiming power by running for political office. And She Could Be Next, made by a team of women filmmakers of color, asks whether democracy itself can be preserved—and made stronger—by those most marginalized.

While pundits obsess over the daily twists of an unraveling democracy, a game-changing transformation is happening at the grassroots. In the 2018 midterm elections, the decisive force may be Americans inspired to vote for the first time.

Many of these voters come from communities of color—often poor, and largely immigrant—ignored by politicians and journalists alike. But a defiant group of women who call these districts home are speaking directly to the issues that engage them, rousing the power of the New American majority.

Filmed between March and November 2018, the film embeds inside five candidates’ stories as they interact with voters, conduct embattled campaigns, and balance work and personal lives. These women of color keep pulling off stunning wins against significant odds, and in the process, are re-shaping the political power infrastructure. Women like:

*Georgia’s Stacey Abrams, potentially America’s first black woman Governor.
*Detroit’s Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian-American who will be the first Muslim woman in Congress.
*Atlanta’s Lucy McBath, a fearless gun control advocate who lost her son in a racially motivated killing.
*Albuquerque’s Deb Haaland, likely to be the first Native American woman in Congress.
*El Paso’s Veronica Escobar, a border-rights activist running for Congress, as migrant families are separated in her district.


Baaji Cooks, A Story of Northern Iranian Cuisine is a short film and webisode series produced by Komaaj. Komaaj is a Cultural Unique Northern Iranian brand focusing on food, drinks, and flavors from all regions of Northern Iran. Komaaj is committed to showcasing the plenty of fresh produce, herbs, spices and products available in the Bay Area, and combination of those with traditional yet specific Persian ingredients. Dishes are performed in a manner that honors Northern Iran gastronomic traditions.
Komaaj’s dedication to tradition and quality falls into its Pop-ups.

Komaaj provides locals with brilliant service and a warm, relaxed environment in its venues or wherever that its customers need. Komaaj’s most important goal is to make the dining experience as accessible to those who just know what they like, as it is to those who understand the rich gastronomical culture in which we live.


CinéEqual represents filmmakers, institutions, and community members with a focus on social justice cinema. As an integrated unit of Cinema Without Borders, it promotes a diverse, inclusive, and equitable democratic society that values the worth of all humans.

The purpose is to educate our audience about concepts, theories, and methods related to social justice and to integrate ethical practices for solving social inequities through our online networks and resources. From studio productions like To Kill a Mockingbird to low budget films like Hotel Rwanda, I am not Your Negro, cinema has a venerable record of putting the spotlight on social injustice. But there are no online film forums dedicated to the cause. And that is where CineEqual comes in, as a pioneer in this market place of ideas, information sharing, networking, fundraising, and constructive action.




Synopsis: For the first time since WWII, the number of refugees, displaced people and forced migrants surpassed 50 million globally. UNHCR estimates this number will triple to 150 million in the next ten years. It’s critical for the world to turn its attention towards finding just solutions to this overwhelming and urgent challenge. Humanity on the Move will be one of those solutions.

Show of Force has created Humanity on the Move, a project that uses TV, radio and videos to change perceptions about refugee children and families.
Humanity on the Move will create opportunities to help refugees tell their own stories and build support from people around the world.


When the Taliban puts a bounty on Afghan director Hassan Fazili’s head, he is forced to flee with his wife and two young daughters. Capturing their uncertain journey, Fazili shows firsthandthe dangers facing refugees seeking asylum and the love shared betweena family on the run.

MIDNIGHT TRAVELER is a feature-length autobiographical documentary chronicling the struggles of family of Afghan filmmakers on the run after becoming targets of the Taliban. Touching on topics of broad political interest like the refugee crisis in Europe, the film puts a human face on these issues by providing first-person access to one family’s choices, anxieties, and hopes as they try to survive deportation, a life in hiding, and the smuggling route to Europe.



SIMA’s mission is to advance global awareness, social justice, human rights, and humanitarian development by catalyzing creative works of visual storytelling that inspire activism, compassion and social transformation. SIMA started as the first documentary and educational media competition honoring members of both the independent film and global humanitarian industries. We set out to propel and elevate social-impact filmmaking that inspires crucial perspectives and demonstrates unique potential to enlighten, transform, and positively impact our contemporary world.

Over the years, we developed an international screening series, educational programs, community outreach initiatives and an ever expanding film catalogue (the SIMA Collection), curating and distributing the best impact cinema from around the globe. Through the annual SIMA AWARDS and year-round FILM PROGRAMS, we provide a catalyst for these important works, and serve as a film reserve for educators, journalists and screening partners worldwide.


Synopsis: Vessel begins with a young doctor who lived by the sea, and an unlikely idea.  Rebecca Gomperts, horrified by the realities created by anti-abortion law around the world, felt compelled to challenge this.  Her method: to provide abortions on a ship in offshore waters.

Her project, Women on Waves, begins as flawed spectacle, a media frenzy, faced with governmental, religious, and military blockades. But with each setback comes a more refined mission, until Rebecca has the revelation that she can use new technologies to bypass law – and train women to give themselves safe abortions using WHO-sanctioned protocols with pills. We witness the creation of an underground network of emboldened, informed activists, working at the cutting edge of global reproductive rights, who trust women to handle abortion themselves. Vessel is Rebecca’s story: one of a woman who heard and answered a calling, and transformed a wildly improbable idea into a global movement.


The story of the film Yours Truly begins with FOR-SITE’s remarkable exhibition @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz. Following Ai Weiwei’s detention at the hands of the Chinese authorities, the outspoken artist and activist transformed the former island penitentiary of Alcatraz into an artistic platform. The resulting exhibition engaged over 900,000 visitors in a conversation about the plight of prisoners of conscience around the world.

Trace was one of the eight new artworks that comprised the @Large exhibition. Made entirely from LEGO bricks, the work depicts the faces and names of 176 brave individuals who were incarcerated or exiled due to their beliefs, affiliations, and nonviolent expressions of dissent. The work’s companion piece, Yours Truly, invited visitors to compose messages of hope to many of the prisoners seen in Trace.

Visitors were galvanized by the possibility that their voices might have an impact. By the time the exhibition ended, over 90,000 postcards had been sent. Then something even more astonishing began to happen.

The FOR-SITE Foundation started to hear back from the prisoners and their families. Some of the messages from Alcatraz were getting through, and people had been moved—even sustained—by the public’s outpouring of concern for their welfare and causes.

The film Yours Truly follows these postcards around the globe—from Alcatraz Island to Beijing, Washington, D.C., and Cairo—as director Cheryl Haines meets with former prisoners of conscience and their families to discuss their impossible choices and the comfort they found in messages sent by people they would never meet. The film also takes a deep dive into Ai Weiwei’s inspiration for the postcard project. Interviews with the artist, his mother, and lifelong friends uncover the touching story of a childhood spent in exile and a postcard that found its way to the middle of nowhere. Ultimately, the film Yours Truly is a call to action, extending the incredible reach of Ai Weiwei’s postcards by asking viewers to take the issue of global human rights personally.