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Migrant and local children come together to make professional movies in which each group represents the voyage of the other.

Photo of Kurt Shaw
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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

With ĩn-Home, displaced and refugee girls collaborate with children who came to Brazil centuries or millennia ago to make a series of professional films showing that all people — not just migrants — constantly build and re-build the place they will then call their own. Girls from one ethnic group will make fictional films in which they represent the displacement-migration of another. Haitian refugee children will write the script and direct a film where the grandchildren of German immigrants interpret the story of the Haitian exodus from the Caribbean after the 2010 earthquake. Nomadic Kaingang children will show black children from the favela how to represent their displacement from their traditional lands. Then, the process will reverse, with Haitian kids making a movie about the 19th century German migration to Brazil and Kaingang children making a movie about the slave trade. A film crew will document the whole process and include interviews with girls and their families, eventually turning the project into a film or limited documentary series to be shown on Brazilian public TV, at film festivals, and in schools and community groups. The semi-nomadic Kaingang people of Brazil literally carve their home (“ĩn”) from the earth, and even they, "native” Brazilians, moved here some 1000 years ago. ĩn-Home will use metaphors of clay and earth as a way for children — and audiences — to think how migrants from all over the world can make the south of Brazil our home. The project will build social capital among participants and their families, but will also serve as the basis of a national campaign — showings at schools, extensive distribution on social media and through traditional advertising, and a final film for TV — that reminds Brazilians that we are all people on the move.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

We will work with the children of Haitian migrants, displaced Kaingangs, rural Germans, and the descendants of slaves in the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina. We select the south of Brazil for this work because we know it well and live here, but also because it is a destination for many new migrants. Sadly, the state is also ground zero for new expressions of hatred, with high levels of violence against Haitians, indigenous people, and minority women.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

“ĩn-Home builds relationships between groups traditionally seen as rivals or enemies, so that they come to identify with the struggles of the other. Public identities in Brazil are often created by men, who speak more and stand as political representatives, so we will work with girls to build real relations behind the façade of nativists politicians and the masculine violence causually expressed and naturalized among many men.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

Philosophers from Plato and Plotinus to Kierkegaard and Kristeva have seen being “out of place” as the basic challenge of human existence. People on the move embody this existential condition through the scars of war or torture or the difference in posture and accent that marks them as foreign. Political rage against immigrants hides the “natives” lie that they belong to a certain place, that they deserve to be here. With films where children interpret the movement and inhabit the bodies of children in other ethnic groups, both they and the audience remember that we are all out of place. We show that all human beings are struggling with the same sense of existential displacement, and that what saves us is our connection to others, the way that “we,” who were once refugees and migrants, find meaning and purpose in supporting those who are now moving. As the Jewish Bible puts it, “Show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.”

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

We will measure impact on two different levels: behavioral changes among participating children and their families, and attitude changes among the audience. Participants. Out of Place builds social capital: trust, human connection, new relationships, networking. We measure before and after results on standard empathy tests, document the number of children who continue relationships with children from other social groups a year later, the way they describe their circle of friends, and the way their families motivate cross-social relationships. Audience: Out of Place also proposes to transform attitudes. Do communities participating report higher levels of social interaction between rival groups and reduced social tension and prejudice? We also measure audience numbers at film at festivals, on TV, and on the internet, and evaluate if the film and curriculum are adopted by schools and community groups outside the target communities.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

The Colombian NGO Taller de Vida, founded by displaced women to serve both ex-child soldiers and their victims, has been our partner in three previous successful projects. The organization’s founders, Haidy and Stella Duque, taught us to see displaced people as a strength and a resource for social change, not as an object of charity; they also showed us how art can re-create children’s humanity after armed groups have tried to destroy it. BZ Goldberg’s documentary Promises showed us how film can build bridges between children who have been told that they are enemies, while Jean Rouche has shown the power of a movie that mixes up filmmaker and subject. The philosophical of our work emerges from the way that modern Jewish philosophers like Martin Buber, Emmanuel Levinas, and Hélène Cixous think the encounter with the other, as well as from Latin American theologians like Leonardo Boff. Our concepts of otherness emerge largely from dialogue with contemporary Brazilian anthropology

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

Haitian migrants began to arrive in the South of Brazil after the 2010 earthquake. In general, men came first and after finding work, their families followed. Approximately 7000 Haitians are employed in the small state. They face increasing prejudice since the inauguration of anti-immigrant governments in 2016. German migrants came to Santa Catarina from 1824-1890; many spoke German until the last generation. We will work with the daughters of rural German farmers. Africans were enslaved and brought to Santa Catarina beginning in the 16th century. The state continues to be segregated, with most descendants of Africans in favelas or rural quilombos. Over the last two centuries the Kaingang have been displaced from their traditional lands by European colonists. Many now live in refugee camps in Florianópolis. Today, they are one of the most excluded ethnic groups in the country, with leaders often assassinated by landholders and militias.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

Usina da Imaginação projects inspire local communities to leverage their own strengths to solve their own problems. By connecting families on the move to those with different resources through cultural events and filmmaking, ĩn-Home opens up economic connections and develops the social capital needed for economic integration. In collective research, visiting each others homes to film, and dancing and playing music together, each group can stand in the place of the other. ĩn-Home defines and frames children on the move through their strengths, not simply through their suffering. Through the films that they make, these children teach others — about the history, world politics, and geography they have lived, but also about what it means to be human. And as they come to see themselves as valued, important, and recognized, they (and their families) come to act in that way.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

The Farmers’s Association of Aiurê brings together hundreds of families of German migrants at the base of the Serra do Corvo Branco. Morro do Fortunato is a one of the largest and best organized quilombos (runaway slave colonies) in the state. The urban Kaingang came from the west of the state and now live in shanties near the university, where they try to maintain traditional political organizations. Though Haitian immigrants have found many informal ways to organize themselves both socially and in the labor market, they have not founded a centralized institution. We will work with families and children who participate in catholic church in the small city of Braço do Norte.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Arriving and settling at a destination community

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Other

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Prototype: We have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Group or Organization Name

Usina da Imaginação

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

Rita da Silva was born in a displaced peasant family, but she won her way to university on scholarship and then worked as an actress. With Kurt Shaw — who abandoned a Harvard doctorate to work in the slums of Colombia — they created Usina da Imaginação to use theater and film as tools by which children can change the world. They produced a feature film by ex-child soldiers, a telenovela by indigenous children, and a hip-hop album against police violence. “The Princess in the Alleyway” was named best film of 2017 by the Subversive Cinema Society and their most recent documentary is now on heavy rotation on Brazilian national TV. Their work became the basis for a groundbreaking new children’s policy of the Paraguayan government. da Silva and Shaw have won the United Nations/BMW Intercultural Innovation Award (2016), the UN OV award, a Wenner Gren Fellowship (2007), the Harvard First Decade Award (2007), The Freedom to Create Youth Prize (2008), and have been named to the GOOD 100.

Website URL:

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country


Organization Headquarters: City / State

Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil

1 comment

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Photo of NDEF Cameroon

Hi Kurt Shaw, welcome to the Challenge. We wish you success in your good work.