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Villanova University Social Justice Documentary Examines the Everyday Struggles of an Impoverished Community in Rural India

May 2 Summit Tackles the Challenges of Sustainable Development in India; “Before We Sleep” Premiere to be Held May 3 at The Kimmel Center, Philadelphia

Before We Sleep

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Set against the backdrop of traditional India, an impoverished community unites to overcome issues of abuse, alcoholism and hopelessness – with a helping hand from a local Philadelphia non-profit. That is the subject of “Before We Sleep” an inspiring film written and  produced by students from a social justice documentary course in Villanova University’ College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The official premiere of the film will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 3 at The Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. In conjunction with the film, the class will host an educational “Sustainable Development Summit,” from 7 – 9:30 p.m., Friday, May 2 in the Driscoll Hall Auditorium on the Villanova University campus. Both the premiere and the Summit are free and open to the public. Tickets can be reserved online through

“Before We Sleep”

In October 2013, 10 students from the course travelled to Prashanthagiri, India, a small rural village in the southern part of the country, to learn about the community and to find inspiration for the film. “Before We Sleep” is the illustration of what the students found – a community that struggles everyday with issues such as poverty, gender inequality, alcoholism, domestic violence, lack of education and privatization of farmland. However, in this sea of oppression, the students found a beacon of light in the form of a few individuals who are building a model for development and are examples of the positive change that is necessary to make progress in the community.

The film follows these individuals, including role model Aneesh James, a program manager for Ardmore, Pa. -based Profugo, a non-profit organization working to provide communities, including Prashanthagiri, with access to tools and resources that enable them to build a better quality of life. Aneesh is a native of India who grew up in a similarly impoverished community. Through hard work and determination he was able to attend college and earn a master’s degree in social work. Aneesh devotes his life to working with the people of the village and to exposing the social and economic injustices facing the community.  

Teahouse Films, the name the Villanova documentary class adopted for their working group, is derived from the significance of both trees and tea in Indian culture. Tea represents the patience, appreciation, and generosity of the Indian people and the phrase “Teahouse” comes from the word tree house, in representation of India’s national tree, the banyan tree.

“Sustainable Development Summit”

The Sustainable Development Summit will be held from 7 – 9:30 the Driscoll Hall Auditorium on Friday, May 2. It is free and open to the public. The event will serve to raise awareness of pressing development issues in India and will be a fundraiser for Profugo. The Teahouse Films crew, representatives from Profugo and keynote speaker, William Lorenz, Director of the Sustainable Engineering Program at Villanova, will discuss sustainable development initiatives and injustices. Other highlights of the Summit include a silent auction, a Q&A panel with the Teahouse Films crew about “Before We Sleep,” a screening of the film’s trailer, and the unveiling of the new Profugo tablet app. Authentic Indian food will be provided and all proceeds from the event will go towards helping Profugo’s initiatives.

In addition to the May 2 premiere at The Kimmel Center, screenings of “Before We Sleep” will be held at Villanova’s Connelly Center Cinema at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 29 and Wednesday, April 30.

The social documentary course for which “Before We Sleep” was produced is offered with support from Villanova’s Waterhouse Family Institute for the Study of Communication and Society. The Center engages students in producing professional quality documentary films that spotlight contemporary social justice issues.

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's five colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.