Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights celebrates student filmmakers at Tribeca Festival

NEW YORK, JUNE 9, 2023 – Last night, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights partnered with the Tribeca Festival to debut the works of eight student finalists from its annual Speak Truth to Power video competition. Bringing together students, educators, and human rights defenders, the showcase also featured The Archewell Foundation Award for Gender Equity in Student Film.

Created in partnership with the American Federation of Teachers and the Tribeca Festival, the Speak Truth to Power contest encourages middle school and high school students across the country to become engaged in key human rights issues through creative storytelling. Video submissions span three- to five-minutes and range from documentaries to narrative and experimental films. The contest is designed so that students from all backgrounds can participate without needing expensive equipment or prior video editing skills.

“Taking action in the face of injustice is the mark of a true hero,” said Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “From speaking out against gun violence to advocating for better access to mental health resources, these young people are using their voices to create change. We are honored to celebrate them and share their work with the world.”

“These students are demonstrating the power of experiential learning, creative thinking, and collaboration inside and outside the classroom,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “As educators, we’re proud to support their films and their pursuit of justice through storytelling. Congratulations to all the finalists, and thanks to our partners at RFK Human Rights and Tribeca Festival for helping ensure this unique opportunity is available to students from all backgrounds.”

The 2023 Grand Prize was awarded to Tohir Hodjakulov and Naba Sheikh at James Madison High School in Brooklyn, NY. Their film, “Guns Down, Arms Up,” highlights the epidemic of school shootings in the United States and calls for better gun control, especially in educational environments.

As the latest addition in the Speak Truth to Power contest, the Archewell Award recognizes exemplary student filmmakers whose videos profile women human rights defenders. The inaugural award was given to Ella Daniel and Sam Record from Rock Canyon High School in Littleton, CO. Their film, “Emma’s Recovery: A Journey to Congress,” documents one young woman’s journey to combat eating disorders and improve mental health resources by serving as a patient ambassador for three new bills.

“Storytelling is a powerful tool for sparking inspiration and change, and Emma’s Recovery exemplifies the importance of uplifting youth voices that are building a more equitable and inclusive world,” said Shauna Nep and James Holt, Co-Executive Directors at The Archewell Foundation. “We are so proud of this year’s inspiring young filmmakers, and encourage them to continue speaking up about issues that matter while working together to find solutions that create a new path forward.”

Finalists for this year’s Speak Truth to Power contest also included additional students from James Madison High School; Le Roy Jr Sr High School in Le Roy, NY; The Ramaz School in NYC; and Coral Reef Senior High School in Miami.

Jessica Sarowitz and Bonnie Abaunza served as judges for the 2023 contest. Prior judges have included Alec Baldwin, Kathryn Erbe, Keegan-Michael Key, Matt McCoy, Martin Sheen, Oliver Stone, Scott Wolf, and Alfre Woodard.

For more information on RFK Human Rights and its Speak Truth to Power human rights education program, visit

About Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

We are a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that has worked to realize Robert F. Kennedy’s dream of a more just and peaceful world since 1968. In partnership with local activists, we advocate for key human rights issues—championing change makers and pursuing strategic litigation at home and around the world. And to ensure change that lasts, we foster a social-good approach to business and investment and educate millions of students about human rights and social justice.

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