The Revolutionary Optimists

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Revolutionary Optimists Movie Poster Image
Indian slum kids stand up for themselves in poignant docu.
  • NR
  • 2013
  • 83 minutes

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Kids say

age 12+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The kids and teens featured in the movie live with next to nothing, but that doesn't mean that they don't dream or have goals or want to make things better for their communities. For the most part, only the adults who work with Amlan Ganguly see the potential these kids have, and that's enough to motivate these kids to step up and make their voices heard -- and make people see them as more than slum dwellers. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The featured tweens and teens live in unspeakably difficult circumstances, but thanks to the selfless mentoring and encouragement they receive, they're willing to speak their mind and make a difference in their communities. They choreograph dances, put on plays, take a census of their neighborhoods to make a map, and even lobby the government for access to clean water. Amlan Ganguly has made it his mission to empower these kids, to help them not be complacent about their station in life.


An adult tells the story of being sexually abused -- raped -- when he was only 6. A young teen enters an early marriage and is said to be beaten and ridiculed by her parents. A young girl does back-breaking work at a brick field.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Revolutionary Optimists is a documentary that explores how children in India's slums are empowered to be agents of change. There isn't anything too edgy in the movie aside from one adult's story about having been sexually abused when he was 6, but the featured kids live in a state of squalor and poverty that's unimaginable to most moviegoers. Expect discussion of domestic abuse and child labor, as well as hunger and lack of education. But this isn't a tale of sadness; it's a story that will encourage kids to find their voice, take a stand, and lobby for their rights.

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written byspace123 April 15, 2013

very moving

very inspiring

What's the story?

In the slums of Kolkata (Calcutta), India, the kids live in unimaginable poverty, but one educated Bengali man, attorney Amlan Ganguly, believes that they have the potential to make a change in the world. In a community center he runs with other selfless adults, Ganguly encourages tweens and teens to rise above their circumstances and educate people about their plight -- like their lack of access to clean water. THE REVOLUTIONARY OPTIMISTS focuses on four of the young people Ganguly mentors, demonstrating that no matter how poor or young someone might be, they can do more than just dream of a better future.

Is it any good?

This moving documentary captures the lives of kids who could so easily give up -- life has dealt them seemingly insurmountable odds -- but manage to find in Ganguly a magical godfather of sorts. He's always ready with an inspirational story or a question to make the kids think. He's patient and kind and realizes what a messed-up world these kids inhabit -- one in which most of the greater population plays blind and deaf to their needs.

But these kids won't stay silent. There's young Salim, who's part of Dakabuko (The Daredevils) in his slum colony. He works tirelessly to make the government aware of his community's need for clean water. At one point, a UNICEF official jokes that if it weren't against child labor laws, he'd offer Salim a job; he's that passionate. There's also Salim's neighbor/best friend, Sikha, who fights for girls' equal rights and wants to start a coed soccer tournament. Kajal must work in a brick field as her family's sole breadwinner, but she wants to fight for her education. And beautiful 15-year-old Priyanka loves to dance but fears that early marriage is her only way out of an abusive, disinterested home. Not everyone gets a happily ever after, but the filmmakers show how all it takes is one person who believes in them for these children to rise up and have hope.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about documentaries. Do you want to see more true/real stories with your family? How are documentaries different from reality TV?

  • Talk about child labor and how these kids have so little. Does that make their actions even more admirable?

  • Discuss how poverty in other countries can be even more difficult to overcome than poverty in the United States. What are the cultural issues and prejudices at play in keeping the kids in these slums?

Movie details

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