Indianapolis has one of the lowest high school graduation rates in the country. For adult learners Greg, Melissa and Shynika, finally earning their high school diplomas could be a life-changing achievement. Emmy award-winning director Andrew Cohn’s absorbing documentary observes their individual pursuits, fraught with the challenges of daily life and the broader systemic roadblocks faced by many low income Americans.
Jan Bijvoet - Theo
Jan Bijvoet was born in Antwerp in 1966. He has been one of the artistic directors and actors of the Antarctica Theater since 2005. He has also performed in film and television, guest-starring in a number of series. He has starred in the films AD FUNDUM, THE BROKEN CIRCLE BREAKDOWN (Academy® Award nominee), and BORGMAN (Official Selection – Competition, Cannes 2013). In 2007, he was nominated for the Flemish Culture Award of Scenic Arts. Referring to the German explorer who was the inspiration for his character, he reflects that even though Grünberg tried to integrate with the native people, he could not let go of his white spirit. “He had the western way of thinking, and he wanted to carry hundreds of things to study. Love is possession, too. He is also afraid of death. He doesn’t understand why, but it’s because deep down, he is a materialist since his formation, even though he tries to drift away from it.”
Brionne Davis - Evan
Brionne Davis was born in Texas and started acting at a very early age, playing Tom Sawyer. He has starred and taken leading roles in more than 30 independent feature length and short films and television series, including REST STOP: DON’T LOOK BACK (2008), DOROTHY AND THE WITCHES OF OZ (2012), Pandemic (2007), NARCISSIST (2014), SAVAGED (2013), and HOLIDAYS WITH HEATHER (2006). In New York, Brionne starred in the Theatre Row adaptation of Sam Shepard’s “True West.” He has appeared in many theater productions all across the country, including “Wallenburg” at the Soho Playhouse, “A Noble Exile” in Los Angeles and “Nueva York,” a one-man show that he wrote ￼ and produced, inspired by the writings of Tennessee Williams. Davis’ character “Evan” in EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT was inspired by the great botanist and explorer Richard Evans Schultes, and he feels close to him in his love of and search for plants and nature.
Antonio Bolívar Savador - Old Karamakate
Antonio Bolívar Salvador is one of the last survivors of the Ocaina people. He resides near Leticia and has had some previous experiences in filmmaking, but he prefers not to speak about them because he feels that they were disrespectful to his culture. Besides playing one of the main characters, he also served as interpreter for the Tikuna, Cubeo, Huitoto languages and even English, as he became the teacher of the international actors. He represents the best of the Amazonian people: willing to trust foreigners, to transmit their knowledge and thankful to be treated respectfully. That’s the most important aspect of the film to him: “It is a film that shows the Amazon, the lungs of the world, the greater purifying filter and the most valuable of indigenous cultures. That is its greatest achievement.”
Nilbio Torres - Young Karamakate
Nilbio Torres has never set foot in a gym; his amazing physique has been sculpted by the hardships of the jungle and the hard work he’s done since he was little. The 30- year-old has only worked in agriculture and this is his first experience with the cinema. He has a hard time expressing himself in Spanish, as he speaks mostly Cubeo. But he manages to find words to tell what this experience has meant to him. He feels the film is faithful to the story of his ancestors. “What Ciro is doing with this film is an homage to the memory of our elders, in the time before: the way the white men treated the natives, the rubber exploitation. I’ve asked the elders how it was and it is as seen in the film, that’s why we decided to support it. For the elders and myself it is a memory of the ancestors and their knowledge.”
Yauenkü Miguee - Manduca
Yauenkü Miguee was born and raised in Nazareth, a Tikuna community of the Amazon, 26 years ago. He is now a student of physical education in Bogotá and is about to achieve his greatest goal: to become a professional. He defines his participation in the film as a new experience in his life, this time from the field of art and corporal expression, which reinforced his thinking and showed him how to see life from different perspectives. He believes this film should be shared not only with the people of the locations, but all across the country, with all the indigenous peoples in Leticia and the Amazon, with the leaders, in schools and universities. He is the voice of many Manducas, a voice that, far away from the so-called civilization, cries out for a more civilized attitude towards Colombia’s indigenous communities.
Andrew Cohn - Director
Andrew Cohn is an Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker and screenwriter living in Brooklyn, New York. His first feature-length film MEDORA, produced by Steve Buscemi and Stanley Tucci, premiered at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival and was featured on PBS' critically acclaimed Independent Lens series. Most recently, Cohn directed the documentary KID DANNY for ESPN Films' 30 for 30 series. With the support of a MacArthur Grant, he is currently working on his next documentary NIGHT SCHOOL, as well as directing a film about famed Detroit rapper Danny Brown. He also teaches film and screenwriting part-time at Purdue University.
Jason Orans - Producer
Twice nominated for Independent Spirit Awards as well as for a Primetime Emmy and the NAACP Image Award, Orans has served as producer on numerous feature documentary and narrative films, including Ramin Bahrani’s GOODBYE SOLO (winner of the FIPRESCI Critics Prize at Venice), NIGHT CATCHES US (starring Anthony Mackie and Kerry Washington - Sundance Dramatic Competition), and DARE (starring Emmy Rossum and Rooney Mara - Sundance Dramatic Competition). His most recent documentary, THE GREAT INVISIBLE, directed by Margaret Brown (THE ORDER OF MYTHS) won the Grand Jury Prize at SXSW and was distributed by Radius-TWC and broadcast on PBS in April 2015.
Stephen Bannatyne - Producer
Stephen Bannatyne is a producer and founder of Lucky Hat Entertainment. Past projects include IF A TREE FALLS: A STORY OF THE EARTH LIBERATION FRONT, 2012 Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Feature; THE ORDER OF MYTH, winner of a 2009 Peabody Award; GOODBYE SOLO, named one of the top 10 films of the year by Roger Ebert, and INFORMANT, winner of the 2012 Grand Jury Prize at Doc NYC.