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Institute for Advancing UNITY Films Honored at International Film Festival

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For Immediate Release

Date: November 21, 2011
Contact: Robert M. Harris, Ph.D.
(916) 286-3688

Sacramento, Calif.  On December 3, 2011, three short films developed by the Sacramento-based nonprofit, Institute for Advancing Unity, will be recognized at the 7th Annual MY HERO International Festival in Los Angeles for ranking first in their categories.   The award-winning films are part of the Institute’s extraORDINARY People profiles, a collection of short videos featuring youth and adults who have created change through employing such nonviolent tools as protest, volunteer, organize, express yourself, forgive, embrace culture, advocate and teach.  The series was produced with the help of documentary filmmakers, The Working Group, for inclusion in the UNITY Lab, an interactive learning center under development by the Institute. 

“We are honored by the MY HERO Project’s recognition.” said Robert M. Harris, Ph.D., CEO of the Institute for Advancing Unity. “The award is a testament to the extraordinary work of the people whose stories we captured, and an affirmation of our commitment to creating education resources that empower people to be champions of unity.”

The festival’s host, My Hero Project, is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to use media and technology to celebrate the best of humanity and to empower people of all ages to realize their own potential to effect positive change in the world. The IAU's award recipients will be recognized in honor of such notable individuals as Dan Eldon, an activist, artist and photo journalist who was killed at the age of twenty-two while working as a photo-journalist in Somalia and Ron Kovic, a paralyzed Vietnam-war veteran and peace advocate with the Council for Dignity, Forgiveness and Reconciliation.

Selected as the film that best addresses the theme of activism, Erica Fernandez: Tool of Protest, recounts the story of an Oxnard youth who rallied against an energy corporation’s plans to erect a liquefied natural gas pipeline through her largely immigrant, Spanish-speaking  community.   Azim Khamisa: Tool of Forgiveness, which portrays a father’s efforts to carry a message of forgiveness and mutual respect to groups of young people all over the country in memory of his murdered son, was selected as the film that best addressed the theme of peace.  Florence Jones: Embrace Culture, received special recognition for its portrayal of the late spiritual leader’s quest to preserve Native American land and traditions. Alex Epstein: Tool of Volunteer, which documents the roots of the youth-founded, youth-led NY2NO organization and its volunteer work in the aftermath of Katrina, was a finalist in its film category.

These and other extraORDINARY People profiles are currently available on the UNITY Lab Online website at, along with resources for teachers and games and interactives for youth. “By honoring these films, we are recognizing the compelling examples of social change that Azim, Erica, Florence and Alex have created.” said Edith Crawford, who oversaw the Institute’s extraORDINARY People project.  “Our goal is that the videos themselves will be used as tools by educators, parents, and youth to teach the powerful lesson that anyone can make a difference.”