Quest for Community: A Call to Action
Developing a Legacy of CommUNITY
Film Screening and
Director, Producer, Writer
A Small Act
A Small Act
An official selection at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, A Small Act tells the story of Chris Mburu, a young man from Kenya whose astonishing journey from an impoverished village boy to international human rights lawyer shines a light on the incredible power of giving—no matter how small the gift.
Chris Mburu grew up in a rural village, too poor to afford the $15 school fees his primary school required each term. But with the help of an elderly Swedish sponsor named Hilde Back, who contributed the cost of his school fees, Chris ends up not only finishing primary school, but graduating from the University of Nairobi and then Harvard Law, which launches him into his role as an attorney for the United Nations.
Without his education—and Hilde's gift—Chris sees that he'd most likely be picking coffee instead of fighting crimes against humanity. Hoping to replicate the impact of the Swedish sponsorship program, Chris works to pay forward Hilde's generosity by starting his own scholarship, which aims to rescue bright, needy kids in his home village from a bleak future. He names the fund for Hilde Back, and meets her for the first time at the fund's dedication ceremony. It is here that he discovers Hilde is not Swedish at all, but a German Jew who escaped the Holocaust. She, in turn, discovers that the young boy she helped through primary school grew up to fight genocide.
Today, the young students in Chris's village exemplify both Chris's past and Kenya's future. Kimani, Ruth, and Caroline are the top three students in Mukubu primary school but are mocked by friends and relatives because they can't afford the roughly $500 per year that high school costs. The kids and their families only earn about $1.50 per day. They each pin their hopes on winning one of Chris's scholarships, and as Chris prepares to accept applications, we watch as all three children throw themselves fervently into their studies. But the program is small; how many will qualify for a scholarship? And what impact will it have?
Interweaving the stories of Hilde, Chris, and the three young students into a single narrative, and exploring the enduring challenges of achieving an education in the developing world, A Small Act bears witness to the ripple effect a single action can create. Moreover, it reveals just how powerful a gesture of kindness and generosity can be, and that an education is perhaps the most generous gift of all.
Director, producer, and writer Jennifer Arnold graduated from UCLA and the University of Nairobi with a B.A. in African history and returned to UCLA for an M.F.A. in film. Her award-winning film Maid of Honor screened at Sundance before airing on HBO/Cinemax and Film 4. Jennifer returned to Sundance with her internet series The Mullet Chronicles, which was developed into the documentary American Mullet and released by Palm Pictures and Lions Gate. Jennifer also co-directed a documentary for Ethan Coen and wrote a motorcross script, Speedway, which was selected for Berlin Talent Campus' script clinic, IFP's No Borders and FIND's Directors Lab/Fast Track Program.
View A Small Act trailer →