The Social Impact Media Awards (SIMA) spotlight documentaries and independent films that bring awareness to social injustices across the globe. We spoke with Dr. Daniela Baroffio, Assistant Director of MCM as well as a SIMA jurist, to discuss the awards and her passion for social justice.
NB: How did you get involved with SIMA?
DB: I met with Daniela Kon, the head of SIMA, a year ago through Dr. David Craig. I function as one of the annual judges for all of the documentaries that are submitted. There were 25 that were submitted for our review. Starting in October, we started reviewing all of these different documentary shorts and long films. We had to select winners from a pool. It was an amazing experience. Every story was just mind-blowing.
NB: How many "winners" are chosen?
DB: I think they're awarding something up to 30 awards, so everyone gets something.
NB: Can you describe the reviewing process?
DB: We were given a link to a Google spreadsheet that listed all of the names of the films, and all of the awards, and asked to rank each film from one to five based on different categories. At first, making these distinctions was very, very difficult. However, once you've seen a few, you begin to realize, "this has certain dimensions as far as directing goes, this does not, the music in this is original, this one, not so much."
NB: What were you personally looking for when reviewing these films?
DB: The purpose of SIMA and these documentaries is to showcase films that aspire to have a social impact. That means you're looking to see whether these films are teaching new behaviors or empowering audiences. They raise awareness on the issues, they inform, they educate. We also wanted to make sure they were accurate in their representations, providing thorough evidence and a narrative that addressed the problem, and how it needs to change.
NB: Was there any one film in particular that moved you the most?
DB: The one that moved me the most was a film called Omo Child: The River and the Bush. It's the story of a man who, after getting an education, returns to his village to address their belief that they have to murder young babies born out of wedlock or even born with an overbite. As a viewer, you really understand the power of education to say, you no longer have a right to be ignorant. And so, I'm going to give you different tools, and then you have the choice to change your ways, which these villagers do. Omo Child shows you that you have the power to change things around.
NB: Are there any other films that had that same impact on you personally?
DB: Another one that actually really impacted me - partially from a pedagogical point-of-view, as well as being a mom, was The Trials of Spring. I watched it with my 14-year-old daughter. It was about the beginnings of the Arab Spring Revolution in Cairo. There's something so amazing about actually watching civic responsibility in action. It was really beautiful. So, that was the one that just…shook me.
NB: How has your own research or teaching been affected by these films?
DB: I teach undergraduate classes in gender and media studies, as well as the graduate practicum course. The students in the capstone class often look at media representations, the impact on politics, gender in the workforce…and consider how these concerns are shaped by media narratives. We are a culture that comes from media. Unfortunately, we still have to rely on independent films and documentaries because studios won't back the need for social change. Fortunately, SIMA helps champion these films.
A handful of the 2016 SIMA winners will be screened at the Skirball Center from April through August. Student tickets are $6, and season passes are also available. For more information, go to the Skirball Center's website.