Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2009


This profile was prepared when Stefan Kaspar was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2009.
The New Idea
Stefan is turning films and documentaries into powerful tools for people to engage with and confront their societal challenges. With the support of Grupo Chaski, Stefan’s nonprofit, he is expanding a microcinema network to facilitate the distribution, production, and effective use of audiovisual materials to address important social issues in Peru and elsewhere in the Andean region.

The aptly named Microcinema Network serves both as a much-needed alternative distribution channel for films, videos, and documentaries addressing relevant social issues and as a community forum to discuss them. The network offers citizens in rural areas, on the peripheries of major cities and in some isolated settings, such as prisons, access to a diverse range of films and documentaries by Peruvian and other developing country directors usually excluded from the main film distribution channels. These channels are owned by international companies and target more affluent audiences in Peru’s cities. The network features films that explore social themes of local relevance, thus offering an alternative to the usual mainstream American pop culture showcased in most movie theaters. Stefan uses these films to explore issues related to human rights, strengthening local identities, and transforming peoples’ self-perceptions, to spark discussions, critical thinking, and civic engagement among audience members.

New digital technologies make it possible to expand the network of microcinemas. All of the films distributed by the network have been converted into DVDs in order to reduce transportation and presentation costs, and Stefan and his colleagues are currently exploring the possibility of uploading the films on the network’s website.

The network is also training people in the communities it serves to produce, with hand-held cameras, their own videos that document or otherwise treat issues of particular relevance to their lives and needs. The resulting products are then shown to network audiences with the aim of stimulating greater civic engagement in addressing the relevant needs, and the new “social communicators” thus trained to help replicate Stefan’s approach in Peru and neighboring Ecuador and Bolivia.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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