National Underground Railroad Freedom Center bestows OTR International Film Festival’s inaugural Freedom Award

Press Release

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center bestows OTR International Film Festival’s inaugural Freedom Award


Cody Hefner, (513) 608-5777,


National Underground Railroad Freedom Center bestows OTR International Film Festival’s inaugural Freedom Award

Kripal Kalita’s Bridge recognized for community impact and artistic excellence

CINCINNATI, OH (July 10, 2021) — This evening, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center awarded the OTR International Film Festival’s inaugural Freedom Award to Bridge, a film by Kripal Kalita. The award recognizes films that capture the broader notions of freedom and leaves viewers with a deeper understanding of and renewed commitment to equity and diversity.

Based on real life interactions, Bridge tells the story of Jonaki, a young woman from the Assam region in northeast India on the banks of the Brahmaputra River. The region is ravaged each year by heavy floods, affecting the livelihoods of the people who live there, destroying homes, crops, sources of income and taking the lives of loved ones. The remoteness of the region makes the area isolated from the rest of the world and deprives residents of basic needs like proper education, healthcare facilities and infrastructure. The lack of development and the disinterest of governments and organizations to address the basic needs of Jonaki and her community forces her and her neighbors to watch as their lives are literally swept away each year. Despite their struggles, residents of this region start over each year with a ray of hope in the green valley of a river they love.

“In a field of outstanding submissions, we were struck by the power and artistry of Mr. Kalita’s film as it addresses issues of unfreedom including poverty, systemic neglect, lack of access to healthcare and resource inequity. Yet, through these challenges shines the resilience of hope and the perseverance of people seeking the simple freedom to build a life without fear of hunger, illness or homelessness,” said Woodrow Keown, Jr., president & COO of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. “Freedom comes in many forms and is not one thing to all people. We need the visceral, vivid expressions of freedom that films like Bridge present so people can see and to some extent feel the experiences of other people through their eyes and, in doing so, develop a better understanding and deeper empathy.”

The Freedom Award will be presented annually by the Freedom Center to a film that addresses the issues of freedom – and unfreedom – in its many forms. The award will recognize artistic excellence and community impact, with additional consideration given to those films that amplify voices and highlight perspectives that have been traditionally silenced or that address topics and causes related to systemic issues of freedom and unfreedom.


“Throughout the screening selection and the jury process for the overall narrative feature competition, Bridge has been a title with deep resonance,” said tt stern-enzi, artistic director for the OTR International Film Festival. “It captures, akin to the myth of Sisyphus, the ongoing realities of a community locked in a struggle to gain freedom and control of their situation and hones in on their resilience.”

The OTR International Film Festival helps build a world where movies and media can reflect and value all people. The festival brings together stories from diverse points of view to celebrate difference and honor our shared humanity. The festival is built on five pillars: freedom, identity, diversity, disability and faith. For 2021, the OTR International Film Festival’s theme is A New Lens on Life. As people are emerging from a period of disconnection and isolation, the festival invited guests to see the world through a new lens.

The OTR International Film Festival is made possible through the support of: Founding Sponsor Saul Schottenstein Foundation B; Presenting Sponsor Edwards Initiative; Gold Sponsors Procter & Gamble and Q102; Silver Sponsors PNC BankGreat American Insurance Group and Fifth Third Bank; Bronze Sponsors First Financial Bank, McCloy Family Foundation, UC HealthHuntington BankMonteverdi TuscanyBlank Rome, The Geiger Family, J.P. MorganAgar and CET; and Proud Partners ArtsWaveCintasGraydonTeam Performance InstituteHarriet Beecher Stowe House, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, AllegraBraxton Brewing Co.Bar SaesoSugar n’ Spice Diner and the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza.


About the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center opened in August 2004 on the banks of the Ohio River in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. Since then, more than 1.3 million people have visited its permanent and changing exhibits and public programs, inspiring everyone to take courageous steps for freedom. Two million people have utilized educational resources online at, working to connect the lessons of the Underground Railroad to inform and inspire today’s global and local fight for freedom. Partnerships include Historians Against Slavery, Polaris Project, Free the Slaves, US Department of State and International Justice Mission. In 2014, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center launched a new online resource in the fight against modern slavery,

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