If you wanted to make a movie of Holly Carter’s life, it might be an Action Adventure, filmed in locations around the world, from the buzz of a big city newsroom to the streets of far-off places like Korea and Qatar. And the heroine would be a young woman who graduates from college with a deep curiosity about, well, everything.
“I learned to love exploration and pushing limits both intellectually and physically. I learned that trying new things and pushing outside one’s comfort zone can be the most rewarding way to go through life.”
Like her pilgrim ancestors who dared to follow their dreams, crossing the ocean into the unknown, Holly believes in taking risks, moving forward without knowing what’s ahead.
“Be fearless. I believe that fear is the only thing holding anyone back. Turn off any voices in your head of doubt and replace them with voices of “if not now, when? If not you, who?”
As the plot of Holly’s life unfolds, she follows that mantra with impressive results, becoming a Pulitzer Prize nominee at The New York Times, a scholar photographer in Korea and, finally, an award-winning documentary filmmaker.
And that is when the plot thickens.
In 2007, all of Holly’s adventures converged into one exciting new endeavor.
As a documentarian, co-founder of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and head of the Global Film Initiative, Holly says, “I saw how hungry Americans are for films that take us beyond our borders.”
With that in mind, she founded BYkids, a global movement of storytelling through film to inform and inspire action.
“To have a healthy democracy citizens need to know about the rest of the world.”
BYkids provides handpicked adolescents around the world with the training and video cameras to make short documentaries about their lives. Renowned filmmakers, like the late Albert Maysles and Law & Order: SVU Executive Producer Neal Baer, mentor these young people in the art of filmmaking.
“Kids tell the truth,” says Holly. “They see the world, they say it back, they say it without ego, they say it without politics. I wanted to marry the ability to tell stories through film with this raw honesty that children have for seeing the world and retelling it. This is a profound way to bring global stories to young Americans, especially in their classrooms.”
Each year, a committee, comprised of UNICEF and a group of nationally-recognized journalists, filmmakers, teens and non-profit leaders chooses five stories that carry the universal values of courage, perseverance and dignity.
A BYkids’ film Mentor then spends one month helping the young person make the film, which is distributed to half the schools across the country through Discovery Education, as well as to film festivals, television, video on demand, DVDs and web downloads, reaching more than two million viewers.
-A boy in Mozambique, orphaned by AIDS, takes us into his village life as he struggles to find a sense of family and his brother.
-A teenage girl from Yemen uses poetry to document the pain of discrimination against Muslims in her new home in Brooklyn, NY.
-The direct descendent of the great Kings of Tibet holds on to his traditional culture in the face of persecution.
-A girl who is one of 80 million tribals fighting for an education in India.
-A girl affected by civil war in Colombia, living in displacement like 4 million others in her country.
By exposing young Americans to stories like these, BYkids hopes to awaken their global citizenry and to activate their ability to tell their own stories.
“Learn to live in your own skin and own your voice,” says Holly. “Using that voice is the most powerful tool you have. Your voice may find itself in writing, in song, in poetry or, if BYkids is really lucky, in film. We all have a story to tell. What is yours?”
As for Holly, her own story took a dramatic turn when her husband was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. There was a happy ending. And Holly says she learned an important lesson.
“I learned to cherish every day. If there is something you want to do, get on with it.” And she is.
FILMS BYkids are currently being shown on WNET/Thirteen, the PBS flagship station in New York. Watch and be inspired to help keep the program going.
You can see the movie trailers at www.bykids.org and buy one at Amazon.com.