Each year Neda Nobari Foundation is privileged to meet and work with brilliant and innovative individuals working at the intersection of education, social justice, and grassroots activism. Each
in their own ways, these change-makers are pioneering new systems’ approaches that ignite a transformative potential critical in today’s 21st century world, yet rarely receive the
acknowledgement they deserve.
The NNF Spotlight Series seeks to give a platform to these global leaders, their exemplary work projects, backgrounds, and their driving passions that set them apart as some of the most progressive trailblazers of our time.
Anahita Ghazvinizadeh got her BFA in film from Tehran University of Art and her MFA in studio arts from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. “When the Kid was a Kid” (2011, Iran), “Needle” (2013, US) and “The Baron in the Trees” (2015, US) form her trilogy of short films with children as main characters; Childhood and parenthood, family theater, and exploring notions of growth and gender identity are the main themes of these works. Her other short film “What Remains” (2016, US) is part of a collective international project, Break the Silence, aiming to increase knowledge and action against abuse of women and youth.
Anahita is the winner of the First Cinéfondation Award at Cannes Film Festival and the Silver Hugo at Chicago International Film Festival among other awards, and has showed her films in numerous festivals and shows. She was selected as one of the 25 New Faces of Independent filmmaking in 2013 by the Filmmaker Magazine, and was in the list of 20 rising female filmmakers by IndieWire in 2017. She was a writing fellow at the Sundance Screenwriters’ Lab in January 2013, artist-in-residence at Museum of Fine Art Houston’s Core Program 2013-2015, and has been mentored by filmmakers such as Jane Campion and Abbas Kiarostami. Doha Film Institute Grant, Tribeca Film Institute’s IWC Filmmakers’ Award, Sarah Jacobson Annual Film Grant, Sundance/ Doris Duke Foundation Grant for Islamic Arts and George C. Lin Emerging Filmmaker Prize are among her professional accomplishments.
Anahita’s feature debut “THEY” premiered in the official selection of Cannes Film Festival 2017 and has showed in several festivals since then, including Torino Film Festival, Busan International, Woodstock, Chicago International and NewFest. Reviews of her work have appeared in Chicago Tribune, IndieWire, Screen Daily, Village Voice, Le Figaro and other international press.
Andreas Karelas is the founder and Executive Director of RE-volv, an innovative nonprofit organization financing solar energy for nonprofits across the country. RE-volv’s award-winning crowdfunding platform empowers people to donate to a revolving fund for solar energy. RE-volv has installed solar projects for nonprofit organizations in communities in Maine, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and California. These projects have been crowdfunded by individuals from 38 states and 22 countries.
In addition to receiving support from the Neda Nobari Foundation, RE-volv has received support from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, is an inaugural member of President Obama’s White House National Community Solar Partnership, and has been supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). In 2015, RE-volv received a DOE SunShot Catalyst Business Innovation Award, and in 2017 has received funding and support as a participant in the DOE SunShot Solar in Your Community Challenge.
Andreas is a 2014 Toyota TogetherGreen Conservation Leadership Fellow, a 2016 Open IDEO Climate Innovator, and had the distinct honor of presenting on RE-volv’s work at the White House in 2015. Prior to founding RE-volv, Andreas worked in clean energy and environmental conservation with leading organizations including the National Audubon Society, the American Council on Renewable Energy, blueEnergy, and the Center for Resource Solutions. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Masters’ degrees in International Affairs, and Natural Resources and Sustainable Development.
Maggie MacDonnell grew up in rural Nova Scotia and after completing her Bachelors degree, spent five years volunteering and working in Sub Saharan Africa, largely in the field of HIV/AIDS prevention. After completing her Masters degree she found her country was beginning to wake up to the decades of abuse that Canadian Indigenous people have lived through, including assaults on the environment and enormous economic and social inequality.As such, she sought out opportunities to teach indigenous communities in Canada and for the last six years has been a teacher in a fly-in Inuit village called Salluit, nestled in the Canadian Arctic. This is home to the second northernmost Inuit community in Quebec, with a population of just over 1,300 – it cannot be reached by road, only by air. In winter temperatures are minus 25C. There were six suicides in 2015, all affecting young males between the ages of 18 and 25.
Maggie MacDonnell was awarded the annual $1M Global Teacher Prize during a ceremony in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, beating out thousands of applicants from around the world.The prize was established three years ago to recognize one exceptional teacher a year who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession, employs innovative classroom practices and encourages others to join the teaching profession. Watch the video here.
Marjan Safinia is an Iranian documentary filmmaker whose films examine identity, community and social justice. She currently produces intelligent, artful short documentaries through her company, Department of Expansion where she has produced and directed work for Google Founder Sergey Brin, the Obama administration, and Hillary Clinton’s Next Generation. She is currently working on a multi-part documentary series about women of color running for political office in Trump’s America. Prior work includes her short film, BUT YOU SPEAK SUCH GOOD ENGLISH, a witty and poignant short exploring the first-generation immigrant experience from an insider perspective. Her feature, SEEDS, tells the story of ten brave teenagers from the world’s most troubled conflict zones coming together to live side-by-side for one life-changing summer. Collectively these films have played at over 100 international film festivals and been broadcast in the US, UK, New Zealand, Jamaica and across the Arab world.
From 2012-2017, Marjan was the longest-serving President of the Board of Directors of the International Documentary Association over its 35-year history, and played a critical role in the revitalization and transformation of the organization into one of the most relevant and influential documentary institutions in the country. She is one of seven international co-hosts of the pre-eminent documentary community online, The D-Word. She is the documentary programmer for the ArcLight Documentary Series in Los Angeles and a regular juror, programmer, moderator, speaker and connector of all things documentary. She believes fiercely in the power of community and activism, and the impact of storytelling on fostering a shared sense of common humanity.
Marjan frequently presents on the topic of impactful storytelling, and has led workshops, panels and talks at the National Endowment for the Arts (2017), the National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect (2016), the FRANK Conference for public interest communicators (2014, 2016) and the Communications Network Conference (2013) and Rockefeller’s Bellagio Center think-tank on Storytelling (2014).
Dr. Niaz Kasravi is a national expert and advocate on criminal justice, social justice, and racial justice. She is Founder and Director of the Avalan Institute for Applied Research Solutions, a research, advocacy & training institute.
Dr. Kasravi is the former Director of the Criminal Justice Program for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)- the nation’s oldest civil rights organization. At the NAACP, she led several successful initiatives including campaigns to: abolish the death penalty in Maryland; enact stronger anti-racial profiling legislation in New York City; and free John McNeil who was wrongfully sentenced to life in Georgia. Her career includes serving as Lead Researcher & Associate for the Domestic Human Rights Program of Amnesty International USA, Deputy Director of the Anti- Recidivism Coalition, Director of Community Relations for the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian-Americans, and Policy Associate for Stop Prison Rape.
Dr. Kasravi holds a Ph.D. in Criminology, Law and Society from the University of California, Irvine (UCI). A National Science Foundation grant provided her an opportunity to travel to Iran in 2000 and work with Shirin Ebadi, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient of 2003, on human rights and the role of Iranian women in the reform movement.
Dr. Kasravi was born in Iran and migrated to the U.S. with her family in 1984. Though her works regularly takes her across the country, she currently resides in Los Angeles, CA.
Nicholas Kristof has been a columnist for The New York Times since 2001. He grew up on a farm in Oregon, graduated from Harvard, studied law at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, and then studied Arabic in Cairo. He was a longtime foreign correspondent for The New York Times and speaks Chinese, Japanese and other languages. Mr. Kristof has won two Pulitzer Prizes for his coverage of Tiananmen Square and the genocide in Darfur, along with many humanitarian awards such as the Anne Frank Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.
With his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, he has written several books, most recently “A Path Appears” (September 2014) about how to make a difference. Their last book, “Half the Sky,” was a No. 1 best seller. Mr. Kristof will join Show of Force and Executive Producer Neda Nobari Foundation as part of a forthcoming documentary film and six episode docuseries project called Humanity on the Move, addressing forced migration and the global refugee crisis.