Social Entrepreneurship in Focus Through Documentary

Films Rafea: Solar Mama
Rafea: Solar Mama

Rafea: Solar Mama

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Rafea is a Bedouin woman who lives with her four daughters in one of Jordan’s poorest desert villages on the Iraqi border. She is given a chance to travel to India to attend the Barefoot College, where illiterate grandmothers from around the world are trained in 6 months to be solar engineers. If Rafea succeeds, she will be able to electrify her village, train more engineers, and provide for her daughters.

Even when she returns as the first female solar engineer in the country, her real challenge will have just begun. Will she find support for her new venture? Will she be able to inspire the other women in the village to join her and change their lives?  And most importantly, will she be able to re-wire the traditional minds of the Bedouin community that stands in her way?

A 58-minute broadcast version of this film is currently available on YouTube, click to watch!


When Barefoot College founder Bunker Roy shared the stories of empowered grandmothers bringing the transformative power of light to their rural communities, he created a buzz of interest among documentarians on the lookout for a good story. Jehane Noujaim (Control Room, didn’t wait for a commission. Jehane picked up her camera and headed to Africa to follow Roy, a distinguished looking Indian, sell the opportunity become solar engineers to a village in Mali. With founding support from the ‘Stories of Change’ partnership, the film will be part of the global documentary project Why Poverty?

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Director: Jehane Noujaim and Mona Eldaief

Jehane Noujaim was raised in Cairo where she began her career as a photographer. Following a B.A. in Film and Philosophy at Harvard, she directed Mokattam (1998). Noujaim went on to produce and direct (2001) in association with Pennebaker Hegedus Films and Control Room (2004). She was co-director on We Are Watching You. Noujaim has also worked as a cinematographer on Born Rich (2003), Only the Strong Survive (2002), and Down from the Mountain (2002), and as executive producer on Encounter Point (2006) and Budrus (currently in release).

Mona Eldaief is a director, director of photography, and editor on documentary film and television projects around the world. Born in Cairo, Egypt and raised in the United States, she graduated from New York University with a degree in political science and photography. Her documentary feature credits include Control Room, A Wedding in Ramallah, and Her Name Is Zelda. Television credits include programs for PBS Frontline World , Discovery Networks, Travel Channel, ABC News, and MTV News and Docs. Mona is currently directing and shooting Barefoot Engineers, a documentary feature about a Bedouin woman from the northeastern desert in Jordan who is struggling against the Patriarchal rules of her society to get an education as a solar engineer in India and put the women of her village to work to help alleviate poverty.

Producer: Mette Heide

Mette Heide is an award-winning producer and owner of +plus pictures ApS. She has worked as an executive producer for the past 16 years. She has most recently produced Last White Man Standing (2010), The Invention of Dr. Nakamats (2009) and Honestly, Mum and Dad (2009), the best selling format in Danish television history. She has also produced Little Miss Grown Up (2008), winner of the 2009 Danish Academy Award for Best documentary, Milosevic on Trial (2007), the 2008 Danish Academy Award winner for Best Documentary, and Liberace of Baghdad, winner of the Special Prize at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. In 2008, Heide, along with Mette Hoffmann Meyer and Weijun Chen, won a Danish TV-Oscar for Please Vote for Me, as part of the award-winning series “Why Democracy?”.

Social Entrepreneur: Bunker Roy, Barefoot College

Established in 1972, the Barefoot College is a non-governmental organization that provides basic services and solutions to problems in rural communities, with the objective of making them self-sufficient and sustainable. These ‘Barefoot solutions’ can be broadly categorized into solar energy, water, education, health care, rural handicrafts, people’s action, communication, women’s empowerment and wasteland development.

The College believes that for any rural development activity to be successful and sustainable, it must be based in the village as well as managed and owned by those whom it serves. Therefore, all Barefoot initiatives whether social, political or economic, are planned and implemented by a network of rural men and women who are known as ‘Barefoot Professionals’. With little guidance, encouragement and space to grow and exhibit their talent and abilities, people who have been considered ‘very ordinary’ and written off by society, are doing extraordinary things that defy description.

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