Roads To Olympia: Coaching More Than Sports

By Aaron Weiss
Originally Published November 1, 2016 on HuffPost

Roads To Olympia is a feature film about #EqualityInSports, which will make its debut in early 2017. In addition to the dramatic storytelling of the film, it will be a vehicle for change and empowerment, by amplifying the real life stories of many people around the world.

Two of the characters in the film represent real leaders and heroes who seek positive change in the communities they live in. The fictional characters of Coach Alexandre Gaviao, played by Rocco Pitanga, and Coach Nadia Hassan, played by Jana Zeineddine, embody the spirit of mentors from our own lives. With a criminal and hurtful past, Gaviao runs a wrestling club in a favela, a depressed urban neighborhood. He is determined to keep his wrestlers off the troubled streets and to not let them repeat his own mistakes. Hassan, a Lebanese football coach, travels to Saudi Arabia to start a club to empower women and tackle the big issue of sports education in the Kingdom.

 Jana Zeineddine and Rocco Pitanga in  Roads To Olympia

Jana Zeineddine and Rocco Pitanga in Roads To Olympia

While filming on location in Rio de Janeiro this past summer, the Roads To Olympia team was introduced to Jéssica Medeiros, a real life hero. Jéssica is an inspirational member of the community who works with young children in favelas throughout the city.

Living in the Rio suburb of Duque de Caxias, Brazil, Jéssica and her family struggled with poverty and crime. “We lived in a socially excluded area and my single mother did not have much, so we all had to work hard to reach where we are today,” she recalls. Jéssica was surrounded by crime and violence from an early age. Like many troubled youths, Jéssica was expelled from high school, and her neighborhood did not offer many alternative opportunities. “Massive discrimination exists in Brazil,” she says, “Rich people are more respected and end up having more options for ways to invest in their own education.” Just like so many other kids searching for opportunities, Jéssica veered down a destructive path. She spent her teenage years involved in the dangerous world of drug and weapons trafficking.

Even though Jéssica was making money involved in organized crime, she reached a crossroads in her life. The critical moment came when her bosses asked her to carry out a murder. “I realized, the life I was living would either lead me to jail or death,” she admits. She refused the orders, and to make matters worse, she was involved in a relationship with the girlfriend of one of her drug trafficking superiors. This resulted in death threats, forcing her to move out of her favela, her home. Leaving her roots was difficult, but it allowed her the fresh start she so desperately needed. She decided to change her life.

 Jéssica Medeiros in Rio de Janeiro

Jéssica Medeiros in Rio de Janeiro

Jéssica wanted to prevent kids in Rio from making the same choices that she did. She turned to one of her favorite activities for help, playing football (soccer). Jéssica joinedStreet Child United (SCU), an organization in Rio using the power of sports to make a difference in the lives of underprivileged children. She began her work at Favela Streetcoaching boys and girls, like her, who are trying to escape the world of gun and drug trafficking. “Joining Favela Street gave me the chance to leave the street life behind. I was working for the drug traffickers, which was extremely dangerous,” she said, “but soccer gave me the path I needed to get away from crime.” Jéssica not only teaches her students how to play the game of soccer, but also takes great joy in teaching them about life. “We have so much fun together on the pitch, but it also delights me to follow their development and see the opportunities they are finding outside the favela.”

One of Jéssica’s first big accomplishments with SCU came in 2014, when she was selected by the local head of SCU, Joe Hewitt, to coach the Brazil girl’s soccer team in the Street Child World Cup. Jéssica led her team all the way to the finals, where they defeated the Philippines in a thrilling match, 1-0. After the World Cup, Hewitt seized the momentum of Jéssica’s coaching victory and offered her a prominent role in the next big project at SCU. The project is called the Safe Space Pitch, a soccer pitch and playground in the Complexo da Penha favela in Rio’s Zona Norte (North Zone). It gives children in the community a safe place to play and develop life skills through soccer and team-building activities. This initiative works with both the police and local gangs to establish a moratorium on violence in this space.

Jéssica has already made a tremendous difference in many children’s lives, but there is still plenty of work ahead for Safe Space Pitch and Street Child United. “I understand we are still a very young organization, with many obstacles in our path,” she admitted, “but I see plenty of success on the horizon. I believe my colleagues and I will work hard to achieve the positive impact these areas desperately need.”

If you are interested in helping Street Child United, please DONATE. To further amplify the need for #EqualityInSports, please donate to the film Roads to Olympia and help us use creative storytelling as a vehicle for change.

Roads To Olympia: Women’s Equality In Sports

 by Aaron Weiss

Originally Published August 26, 2016 on HuffPost

 Pascale Seigneurie as Muna

Pascale Seigneurie as Muna

The upcoming narrative feature film “Roads to Olympia” chronicles the stories of three young athletes, in three different countries, striving to make it to the Olympic Games. In this installation of our examination of the social issues raised by “Roads To Olympia,” we focus on women’s rights.

The film’s heroine is Muna, a teenage girl in Saudi Arabia who excels on the soccer field. In her country, women are not encouraged to, and often are forbidden from, playing sports. Female athletes in that part of the world are often looked at as inferior, even disgraceful. Muna is forced to hide her true passion from her mother, for fear of being told to stop playing and bringing about family shame. To protect them and herself, Muna competes in secret, as a member of an underground women’s soccer club.   

The actress who brought Muna to life is Pascale Seigneurie. The Lebanese-born thespian empathizes with Muna’s struggles, having studied ballet her entire life. “Unfortunately, athletic ambition can be stifled very early on for girls in the region. If you grow up hearing that physical activity is inappropriate or shameful for a woman, one might be deterred” she admitted. “I hope the character of Muna can help demonstrate that physical activity is not exclusively a man’s thing.”

 On the set of  Roads To Olympia

On the set of Roads To Olympia

Muna’s struggle is not unique to the fictitious film world contained in Roads to Olympia. The fight for women’s equality in sports is an ongoing battle that peppers the headlines daily in every corner of the world. Two significant stories of women in sports took place in the United States this year: The fight of the U.S. national women’s soccer team for salary equality with their male counterparts, as well as, the overtly sexist media coverage during this year’s Summer Olympic Games in Rio. However, pure gender issues are not the only obstacles facing female athletes. Cultural and religious issues also play a prominent role in the fight for women’s equality in the athletic arena.

Athletes such as Aya Medany and Ibtihaj Muhammed are prime examples of women with extra hurdles. These two trailblazers have taken the international sports scene by storm. In addition to both being Olympians, they tackle the unique issue of female athletic uniforms. While most athletes take their uniform options for granted, those with religious restrictions do not have the same freedoms.

 Behind the scenes, Muna’s classmates wearing traditional hijabs. 

Behind the scenes, Muna’s classmates wearing traditional hijabs. 

Medany, an Egyptian pentathlete and Muhammed, a U.S. born fencer, are Muslim. Their religion requires them to wear a hijab, a woman’s headscarf, which is accompanied by wearing clothes to cover their entire body at all times, including during athletic competition. With lack of education around this tradition, and Islamophobic fears, hijabs are often seen as a distraction from on-field accomplishments, and has even prevented some from competing altogether.

In 2004, at the tender age of 14, representing her home country of Egypt during the Athens Olympic Games, Aya Medany was the youngest participant in the pentathlon. This challenging Olympic event combines running, swimming, fencing, pistol shooting and equestrian. After struggling at her debut in Athens, Medany ramped up her training and quickly rose up through the ranks, competing in a total of three Olympic Games. While she failed to claim an Olympic medal, nobody questioned her talent. She was a three-time Pentathlon World Cup winner and was successful at various other international competitions.

While training for the 2012 Olympics in London, Medany rededicated herself to her Muslim faith, choosing to wear a hijab as a way to show her thanks to God for all of her accomplishments. This meant she had to wear a full body bathing suit for the swimming portion of the pentathlon. The International Swimming Federation chose to ban full body swimwear amongst worry that they would create a competitive advantage for those who wore them due to their sleek texture. When her appeal for an exemption on the grounds of religious expression was denied, Aya was faced with a very difficult choice. Just as in Roads to Olympia where Muna deals with the challenging internal debate of sports versus culture, Medany, the 2014 IOC Women and Sport trophy winner for Africa, had to decide between reaching her Olympic goal and following the laws of her religion. In the end, she decided to go to London and compete in the hopes of making a statement to women around the globe. “God chose me to send a message that sport is for everyone,” she said.

Now 27, Medany is retired from competing in the pentathlon. She mentors young athletes in Egypt, particularly females, teaching them to remove the obstacles standing in their way of athletic success, while maintaining respect for their traditions. “I want to challenge the belief that girls can’t reach their goals even while getting married and starting a family,” said Medany, as she strives to develop the next generation of Munas. One of her protégés, 12 year old Maria Muhammed, credits her in making a positive difference for women athletes everywhere. “She fights for what she loves and does it no matter what. She stands up for women in sport. She’s very courageous,” Maria said.  

 Muna’s underground soccer club.

Muna’s underground soccer club.

Ibtihaj Muhammad’s story is a bit different. Growing up in New Jersey, Ibtihaj always played sports, but wearing a hijab brought her negative attention. She stood out from her peers. As tensions towards Muslim Americans in her area intensified following 9/11, Ibtihaj was often the victim of jokes and bullying.

One day, her mother discovered the sport of fencing. She encouraged Ibtihaj to try it out, as the fencer’s mask would cover her hijab, allowing her to compete without having to defend her choice in clothes. “With fencing, I finally had a sport where I didn’t have to adjust the uniform,” said Muhammad, “I could just be recognized for my abilities.”

Those abilities earned her a full scholarship to Duke University where she majored in International Relations and African Studies while continuing to fence. She became a three-time All American. That type of athletic talent earned her a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team at this summer’s Games in Rio where she made a major impact, winning the bronze medal in fencing.

With her successful run at the Rio Olympics complete, Miss Muhammad’s focus now shifts to her many other endeavors, including Louella, a clothing company she started with her siblings. They make casual women’s clothing which combines the requirements of Islam with contemporary fashion. She is using her rising popularity to bring attention to the important issues facing her community. “I owe it to people who look like me and fight these struggles every day with this fear-mongering and hate we are experiencing,” she said, “I owe it to all of us to combat these notions of bigotry. I have to speak out against it, for African-Americans, and for other minorities in this country.”

She still faces injustices herself, she was hassled by a volunteer at SXSW, to remove her hijab, even though she was one of the speakers. Ibtihaj remains undeterred, she is the first Muslim-American wearing a hijab to compete for the United States in the Olympics. Qualifying for Team USA was not an achievement Miss Muhammad enjoyed alone. “The little girls I saw myself in, I wanted to qualify for them,” she proclaimed, “I wanted them to know there were no boundaries for the goals they set for themselves.” A motivation that drew praise from President Barack Obama.

There remains plenty of work on the horizon. As Miss Muhammad’s efforts begin to affect change in the United States, Seigneurie admits that her region must begin to follow suit as well. “The situation is much more complicated for female athletes in the Middle East due to political and religious restrictions on women’s activities,” she said, “but I remain optimistic that things will change at their own pace there too.”

Like Medany, Muhammad and Seigneurie, the creative team behind “Roads to Olympia”hopes to show young women, particularly those in the Middle East, that success in sports is something that is very much within their reach. “As a female producer, it is of the utmost importance that I champion the narratives of strong women such as Muna,” said Katherine Randel, the film’s producer. “We want women of all ages in the region to have the opportunity to see sports as an achievable activity and a vehicle for success.”

Be sure to like “Roads To Olympia” on Facebook!

Roads To Olympia: Filming in Jordan

by Aaron Weiss

Originally Published July 28, 2016 on HuffPost 

 Director of Photography, Ashton Harrewyn in Petra, Jordan

Director of Photography, Ashton Harrewyn in Petra, Jordan

It takes a world of talent to make a feature film. But sometimes, it also takes the talent of the world. The latter statement certainly applies to Roads to Olympia the narrative feature film about three athletes trying to overcome social obstacles to realize their dream of competing in the Olympic Games, which is ambitiously shooting on three different continents and in three different languages. Recently, the crew successfully wrapped production on the Middle Eastern segment of the film, which was shot over the course of several weeks in Jordan. The production can attribute much of that success to the help and guidance of the Royal Film Commission (RFC), Jordan’s non-profit government initiative whose mission is to develop and support the film industry in Jordan.

Founded in 2003, the vision of the RFC is to create an internationally competitive Jordanian film industry. George David, the Managing Director of the RFC, believes that vision has begun to be realized. “The RFC has largely contributed to the development of the film industry in Jordan, from the rise of competent and skilled crew, to the promotion of Jordan as an attractive filming location,” he said, “ten years ago, there was hardly any Jordanian film produced by Jordanians in Jordan. The number of foreign productions shooting in Jordan has increased considerably.” To that end, in recent years, Jordan has housed the production for such United States-produced blockbusters as X-Men: ApocalypseThe Martian, and Rosewater.

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The RFC provides a full array of support and services to feature film shooting in Jordan including production services such as facilitation with locations and liaising with government entities like the army or police force, workshops and training for beginning and intermediate filmmakers and year round film screenings. David considers the continued development of Jordan’s film crews to be the RFC’s biggest strength. “We are very proud of how the crew force developed in the past ten years,” remarked David, “the talents and skills available in Jordan are now a match to many of the top film hubs around the world.”

This fact was not lost on Yanal Kassay, the Co-Producer of Roads to Olympia’s Jordanian unit. “Because so many foreign productions came to Jordan, a lot of local crews began to be built up, to the point where Jordanians, who already had ambition to make their own films, no longer have to ship professionals in anymore. We’ve always had the stories to tell, but now we have the crew,” said Kassay, who has an impressive resume working on numerous feature film projects made in Jordan such as Zero Dark Thirty, and The Hurt Locker, “gradually, we built an industry here and now one of the biggest strengths that Jordan has is its film crews.” Last year, one of Jordan’s own films, Theeb, which Kassay helped to produce, was nominated for an Oscar and won a BAFTA. To Kassay’s point, Jordan’s film crews have become so talented and well versed, that other countries in the region have now begun to import Jordanian crews to work on their productions. 

 Co-Producer Yanal Kassay

Co-Producer Yanal Kassay

With a burgeoning infrastructure taking shape, David believes that because of the dedicated work of the RFC, the future is bright. “We honestly believe that the RFC has largely contributed to the positive development of the film industry.”

Kassay agrees. “The RFC’s initiative is to promote films in the Middle East, in Jordan in particular, with the long term goal of the success of the Jordanian film industry. They are very open-minded to the type of stories that are being told in the Middle East and in Jordan, as long as they are respectful to the region. But they have always given us their full support and have always been there for us.”

Thanks to its unique and varied picturesque landscapes, the emergence of the RFC, as well as the continued participation of high quality productions, Jordan has quickly established itself as the true hub of film production in the region. A film-friendly beacon in the Middle East and one of the homes of Roads To Olympia

Roads To Olympia: LGBTQ Equality

By Aaron Weiss
Originally Published May 11, 2016 on HuffPost

The upcoming narrative feature film Roads to Olympia chronicles the stories of three young athletes in three different countries striving to make it to the Summer Olympic Games. Along the way, they not only face challenges on the field, but the social constructs in their countries also obstruct their path to realizing their dreams. Over the next few weeks, we will take a closer look at each of those social issues and how the film will aim to pull back the curtain and generate awareness for each cause.

One of the film’s main characters is Roma, a talented Russian decathlete whose father is a powerful politician in Moscow. Despite all his success and promise, Roma is living a double life. He is a closeted homosexual and has a secret boyfriend named Petr. Roma must keep his true self hidden, for fear of persecution and to avoid damaging his father’s reputation. Roma is not alone in this conflict. Because of the Russian government’s hostile attitude towards the country’s LGBTQ community, and several anti-gay groups rising to the forefront, it is a very dangerous time to be gay in Russia.

Following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia actually began to be more liberal in their views towards LGBTQ rights. Homosexual relationships were decriminalized in 1993, and transgender Russians were even able to legally change their gender on identification documents. In recent years, that progress has come undone as the government has implemented new laws banning “non traditional “sexual relations. The government insisted these laws were created to protect minors from pedophiles. Yet just last year, Communist Party lawmakers Ivan Nikitchuck and Nikolat Arefyev helped to pass even stricter bills which outlaw public displays of homosexuality, including practices as harmless as kissing or holding hands. Those who are flagged under this new law would be subject to fines or even jail time.

 Roads To Olympia: Daniel Alexander and Alexander Khvashchinsky

Roads To Olympia: Daniel Alexander and Alexander Khvashchinsky

These harsh measures from the government have led to violent clashes between police and LGBTQ activists and have paved the way for the rise of several anti-gay organizations such as “Parents of Russia” and “Occupy Pedophilia.” As profiled last year in Britain’s Channel 4 documentary “Hunted”, these groups use the internet to lure gay men and lesbian women into meeting and then employ intimidation and violence to humiliate and injure their targets, while filming the encounters for online consumption. These acts of violence have resulted in death, but police investigations are minimal and the victims’ obituaries treat the death as an ordinary homicide.

The Russian government has essentially turned a blind eye towards the victims. In fact, Russian officials openly claim that there is no issue, and that Russia ensures total equal rights to its LGBTQ community. Such statements include Russian president Vladimir Putin’s appearance last fall on 60 Minutes where he asserted that there is no anti-gay persecution in Russia and that the government’s installation of anti-gay laws has been greatly exaggerated. Putin’s claims echo similar comments he made in advance of the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014. Whether or not Putin acknowledges that there is a problem, violence against the LGBTQ community is on the rise.

Despite the horrible conditions described herein, Russia is far from the only source of peril for the LGBTQ community around the globe. It is worth noting that it is still illegal to be gay in 79 countries, and Russia is not included in that list. Every day, the international LGBTQ community faces terrible hardships in the form of governmental persecution, bullying and intimidation, and even murder. In the last year alone, the horrific acts include LGBTQ students  bullied in Japan, the brutal murders of well-known LGBTQ activists in Bangladesh, and the public beheadings by ISISof gay men in Iraq.

 Roads To Olympia: Alexander Khvashchinsky, Natalya Rudakova, and Masha Borovikova

Roads To Olympia: Alexander Khvashchinsky, Natalya Rudakova, and Masha Borovikova

But there is hope on the horizon. With the goal to put an end to the violence and persecution, a number of human rights organizations are speaking out in protest of Russia’s anti-gay laws. During the Sochi Olympics, Human Rights Watch, an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights, All Out, an organization fighting for global gay rights, and Athlete Ally, a group focused on ending homophobia and transphobia in sports, started the Principle 6 campaign, named after the provision in the Olympic charter that is supposed to guarantee non-discrimination for all Olympic participants. Principle 6 experienced plenty of success during the Sochi Olympics, with All Out delivering a 300,000 name petition to the International Olympic Committee, causing three National Olympic sponsors to publicly denounce Russia’s anti-gay laws, and gaining the support of celebrities such as Rihanna, Mark Ruffalo, and Zachary Quinto.

The cast of Roads to Olympia also views this as a chance for the film to help make a difference. Daniel Alexander, who plays Roma, sees the problems going on in Russia as a wide sweeping issue that people all over the world can relate to. “Discrimination is a universal issue that we’ve faced throughout history by making distinctions between each other,” he said, “Roma’s story gives me an opportunity to relate to him emotionally. Being able to relate to one another is one of the most beautiful abilities we have as human beings. It is the opposite of making distinctions.”

Masha Borovikova, another member of the Roads to Olympia cast, sums up the cast’s role in helping to make a positive difference in the greater cause. “We have only helped to tell the story, which is a disturbing one. But if someone watching this film uses it to improve something in their lives, then I will be happy.”

‘Roads To Olympia’: A Film With Impact

By Aaron Weiss
Originally published March 29, 2016 on HuffPost

 On the set of Roads To Olympia

On the set of Roads To Olympia

The art of storytelling can be a very powerful tool. Will the combination of moviemaking and social activism change homophobia in Russia, women’s oppression in Saudi Arabia, and income inequality in Brazil? 

These three social issues are being tackled head on by Roads To Olympia, an independent film that sheds light on the discrimination people face due to their gender, sexual orientation, and social status. This narrative feature film chronicles the stories of three young athletes in pursuit of a shared dream: to compete in the 2016 Olympic Games. 

The heart of the film is in its main characters, and the battles they face, not in the athletic arena, but in their everyday lives. Muna, a Saudi student with a desire to play football, lives in an Islamic country where women are considered indecent for participating in sports. She risks shaming her family and puts her life on the line in pursuit of her passion. Roma, embodies the ideal Olympic decathlete who fights to keep a double life hidden from his father, a politician supporting the anti-gay law, and a nation seeped in homophobia. Manuel, a Brazilian wrestler living in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, haunted by his criminal past, struggles to get his mother out of poverty by making it to the Games.

 Manuel, Muna, and Roma

Manuel, Muna, and Roma

Over the coming months, this blog series will introduce the team behind the film, document the production’s progress and profile various NGOs and social good organizations partnering with the filmmakers. 

While conceiving the story of Roads to Olympia, Ramazan Nanayev, the film’s writer and director, saw this as an opportunity to combine two of his great loves - filmmaking and sports. “Like sports, filmmaking requires strength, resilience, and dedication,” said Nanayev, who himself was a collegiate wrestler and decathlete. “My athletic past has helped me shape the story I was telling and foster the mindset required to bring Roads to Olympia to life.” 

In addition to growing up as an athlete, the twenty-five year old Nanayev also witnessed first hand many of the struggles addressed in the film which helped provide the inspiration for the characters and their stories. “I was born into a Muslim family and over many years I have witnessed the unfair treatment of women in the culture,” he said, “I stood by my best friend while he faced fear and doubt when coming out to his family, our friends, and teammates about his sexuality. My family struggled with financial uncertainty and poverty after the fall of USSR, which eventually lead to us moving to America.” 

 Ramazan Nanayev speaking to actors on set

Ramazan Nanayev speaking to actors on set

Perhaps the most unique aspect of this film is that it tells the stories of three distinctly different characters on three different continents and in three different languages, making this a foreign film in its truest sense. Like other ensemble cast films that came before it such as The Hours, Crash, and Magnolia, Roads To Olympia brings three stories together with one main theme: Individuality in the face of repression.

There are many hurdles that stand before the filmmakers, but those challenges are not deterring Nanayev from carrying out his vision. “People told me this should have been your fifth feature film not your first, he admitted, “It’s too ambitious. You’re crazy. I agree, but I believe this story needs to be told now and I am going to do everything in my power to make it happen.”

It takes more than one man to make a feature film. Producer, Katherine Randel, came on board the project last year after being introduced to Nanayev and being immediately impressed with Nanayev’s passion, and the concept of these three stories being interwoven into one film. “When I first met Ramazan, I knew both he and this script were exceptional,” recalled Randel, “I gave him some pointers on how to partner with various NGOs and Social Good Organizations as a way to capitalize on the opportunity the film was creating to inspire the audience to take action. I then decided to join the project as a producer because I wanted to give this film my all.”

 Ramazan Nanayev and Katherine Randel

Ramazan Nanayev and Katherine Randel

Over the last year, Nanayev and Randel have been relentless in trying to guide this project from just an intriguing concept into what they both believe will be a powerful film. But there is still plenty of work on the horizon. In recent months, production of the Russian segment of the film, which shot in New York City, has wrapped. Due to The Russian LGBT Propaganda Law, a federal law “for the Purpose of Protecting Children from Information Advocating for a Denial of Traditional Family Values”, it would have been illegal for the film to shoot in Moscow. As a result, several of the actors flew to New York from Russia to participate in the film. 

 Preview of the Russian segment of Roads To Olympia

Preview of the Russian segment of Roads To Olympia

Now, the focus has turned to venturing out of the United States this spring to complete the film’s remaining two segments. Filming of the Saudi portion of the film will take place in Amman, Jordan, a film friendly beacon in the Middle East. Jordan’s film team will be helmed by Yanal Kassay, whose producer credits include the Oscar nominated and BAFTA winning, Theeb. The third and final leg of Roads to Olympia will be shot on location in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the host city for the 2016 Summer Olympics, with the production being lead by young producers Rodrigo Bitti and Eline Porto. 

As is the case with many independent films, Randel acknowledges that perhaps the biggest hurdle that the production faces is a financial one.”The most difficult thing for an independent filmmaker is financing,” she said, “‘like other startups, you are creating an enterprise, a new business. The difference however, is the difficulty of measuring the commodity produced. Selling storytelling to an investor is like selling magic beans.”

The filmmakers are in the process of raising money to complete the Jordanian and Brazilian segments, as well as financing post-production costs. They have partnered with CrowdRise, the popular crowdfunding platform, to help achieve that goal. “We hope that by following the progress of the film through this blog, people will learn more about NGOs we are collaborating with and our efforts to amplify these social issues and encourage more followers to donate and help with this mission.” 

Nanayev understands that the path will be difficult. In the end, he believes it will all be worth it once Roads to Olympia is complete. “It’s a sacrifice,” he admits, “I think we’re feeling it physically and mentally. Like marathon runners, there is this masochistic part to filmmaking. It is hard, but you just keep rolling because you have to and you kind of love it. You’ve got to love it or you simply won’t last. It’s an eventful journey, it’s a rollercoaster, and it’s a way of life. We’re moving on with a purpose of telling stories to inspire solutions and action, that’s what keeps us going.”