Photo: Courtesy of Audra Hampsch

Telling the World's Stories

For more than twenty years, the Jacques Salmanowitz Program for Moral Courage in Documentary Film at BC has sent fledgling filmmakers around the globe. 

Audra Hampsch ’17 (pictured above) arrived at the Heights in 2013 planning to study filmmaking. A year later she found herself 6,000 miles from campus in Argentina, filming a short documentary, Encontrar La Paz, which detailed terrorism during that country’s Dirty War in the 1970s and ’80s.

Hampsch’s trip was part of the Jacques Salmanowitz Program for Moral Courage in Documentary Film, which has helped to fund documentaries by nearly 100 Boston College students over the past two decades. In fact, by the time Hampsch graduated, Salmanowitz grants had also financed her trips to Israel and Germany to make two additional movies. “It was the Salmanowitz program that made me want to pair film with social justice,” said Hampsch, who today produces campaign videos as a vice president at NP Agency in Washington, DC.

The program, which was originally based at George Washington University, is named after Jacques Salmanowitz, a Swiss businessman who helped people escape Germany during World War II. Since the initiative moved to BC in 2001, students, often working in pairs, have produced sixty films on a range of social issues. Another six are scheduled to be completed this year. BC’s film studies program is on the small side, graduating about fifteen students each year, so the annual Salmanowitz funding of $25,000 goes a long way. Participants receive up to $2,500 each to pay for travel, lodging, and logistics such as hiring security guards in dangerous areas. That may not sound like a lot of money, said Boston College Film Studies Director John Michalczyk, who runs the program, but "all of them have come back with some kind of experience that has changed them in someway about looking at the world.”

Like Hampsch, Elayne McCabe ’06 made multiple Salmanowitz films. Her first short documentary, Shaksting, completed in 2006, took her to a tent city in India, where she shadowed a 10-year-old boy. “Growing up north of Boston I just didn’t know people in the world lived like that,” McCabe said. After graduation, she studied cinema in Indonesia on a Fulbright scholarship. She spent nearly two years there directing her first feature-length film, Kasheer, for which she used another Salmanowitz grant to purchase historical footage. “BC isn’t really known for being a film school,” McCabe said, “but it has this incredible resource that you can take advantage of. It gave me on-the-ground experience.” 

Film Archives

Here are a few notable projects created via the Jacques Salmanowitz Program for Moral Courage in Documentary Film.

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Nkosi’s Legacy (2003)

The first Salmanowitz production, this film by David LaMattina ’03 recounts the story of Nkosi Johnson, a South African boy and activist who was born with HIV and died of AIDS at age 12.

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The Art of Reconciliation (2019)

By focusing on Belfast’s many political murals, Kelsey McGee ’19 and Ciarra Duffy ’20 examinethe lingering animosity between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Island.

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Saving Faith (2019)

John Mohler ’21 chronicles the journey of Fr. Douglas Al-Bazi, an Iraqi priest who emigratedto New Zealand after being held by ISIS.

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Kicking on Rocks (2020)

Brandon Brito ’20 explores how Cape Verde, a small African island with few resources, has produced a large number of professionalsoccer players.

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