The 2015 Media Impact Festival celebrated the social impact of media, and its capacity to transform society. In its second year, the festival showcased documentary films that have made a notable impact on a particular issue through powerful coverage and inspired engagement of audiences, influencers, and institutions.

Our nominators chose five films to be highlighted, each of which were considered for the The Henry Hampton Award for Excellence in Film and Digital Media.

We assembled case studies examining the outreach campaigns for each of the selections — read them here to learn more about how these high-impact films moved audiences and influencers to action.

2015 Winner of The Henry Hampton Award for Excellence in Film and Digital Media:


Virunga—which tells the story of conservation workers fighting to protect Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)led to a campaign focused on four key areas: film; legal; advocacy in the DRC; and international advocacy. The campaign garnered public awareness through multiple awards, a large press profile, high-profile supporters, further action by governments and NGOs, and distribution in over 100 countries on a major platform. The filmmakers have successfully engaged six governments in this issue and expect that to grow. They have also reached many ambassadors both to DRC and from DRC as well as key political figures. Threats to Virunga National Park are an ongoing inter-governmental issue still being debated by parliaments and committees. In February 2014, after a series of private briefings by the campaign team and their partners, the Church of England Ethical Investment Fund called upon oil company SOCO to address allegations concerning their operations in Virunga National Park. In addition, legal work related to the film is ongoing.

2015 Media Impact Festival Selections

Chasing Ice
In the spring of 2005, acclaimed environmental photographer James Balog headed to the Arctic on a tricky assignment for National Geographic: to capture images to help tell the story of the Earth’s changing climate. Chasing Ice is the story of one man’s mission to change the tide of history by gathering undeniable evidence of our changing planet. With a band of young adventurers in tow, Balog began deploying revolutionary time-lapse cameras across the brutal Arctic to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers. As the climate change debate polarizes America and the intensity of natural disasters ramps up globally, Balog finds himself at the end of his tether. Battling untested technology in subzero conditions, he comes face to face with his own mortality. His hauntingly beautiful videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate.

Girl Rising
From Academy Award-nominated director Richard E. Robbins, the film Girl Rising journeys around the globe to witness the strength of the human spirit and the power of education to change the world. Viewers get to know nine unforgettable girls living in the developing world: ordinary girls who confront tremendous challenges and overcome nearly impossible odds to pursue their dreams of education. Prize-winning authors put the girls’ remarkable stories into words, and renowned actors give them voice.

Who Is Dayani Cristal?
Who Is Dayani Cristal?
tells the story of one undocumented migrant who left home in search of work and instead met death in the Arizona desert. Mexican artist and activist Gael García Bernal traces the main character’s migration route, starting from his home in Honduras to the place he died in the desert. The ability to trace a dead migrant’s path is uncommon, since it is rare that migrants carry personal ID. Identification documents open migrants to the danger of being targeted by cartels or traffickers, or by government authorities, so when they perish in transit, their families are left with the agony of unanswered questions. Governments have failed these families with inadequate tracking and repatriation of deceased and missing persons. The unknown man, though he would eventually be identified as Dilcy Yohan Sandres Martinez of El Escanito, Honduras, comes to represent the issues faced by all migrants who follow his path.

When I Walk
In 2006, 25-year-old Jason DaSilva was on vacation at the beach with family when, suddenly, he fell down. He couldn’t get back up. His legs had stopped working; his disease could no longer be ignored. Just a few months earlier, doctors had told him that he had multiple sclerosis, which could lead to loss of vision and muscle control, as well as a myriad of other complications. Jason tried exercise to help cope, but the problem only worsened. After his dispiriting fall on the beach, he turned to his mom, who reminded him that, despite his disease, he was still a fortunate kid who had the opportunity to pursue the things he loved most: art and filmmaking. Jason picked up the camera, turned it on his declining body, and set out on a worldwide journey in search of healing, self-discovery, and love.

Special thanks to our selection committee:

    • Chair: Juliette Feeney-Timsit, After-FACT
    • Sonya Childress, Firelight Media
    • Sandy Herz, Skoll Foundation
    • Kathy Im, MacArthur Foundation
    • Ken Jacobson, IDA
    • Joy Thomas Moore, Consultant
    • Andrea Nemtin, Inspirit Foundation
    • Debika Shome, Harmony Institute
    • Kim Spencer, LinkTV
    • Rahdi Taylor, Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program