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New Documentary 'Sparks' Collaboration That Could Benefit People in Need Locally and Globally

At the dawn of the 21st century, America’s spiraling energy consumption hijacks our democracy and gambles our planet’s future. Meanwhile, 50 million Americans live in poverty, while our government stalls behind party lines. Next spring a new documentary, The Spark, will reveal a blueprint for realistic, immediate solutions.

Meet Dr. Marcin Jakubowski, who lives on a remote farm in rural Missouri. His world is one of mud and machines, and most nights he can be found welding in the back of his earthen brick workshop. Elsewhere engines rumble and sparks fly. This is Factor E Farm, ground zero of Jakubowski's Open Source Ecology movement. Its mission is to revolutionize the world’s economics through the use of Open Source technology, to redesign the world’s most important machines using common tools and materials. Marcin’s team of engineers design and test these machines day and night, and then release the plans over the Internet … for free.

Jakubowski was catapulted to tech rock stardom after his 2011 TED talk on Open Source Ecology went viral. In no time, he went from feeling that all of the theory over which he had labored while earning his PhD in fusion energy had no real-world application to seeing the potential for his dream to have major impact. With new eager supporters, he bought land, began farming and started work towards his vision for a sustainable future.

Meet Nat Turner, who drove a school bus to New Orleans with a dream to heal the Lower 9th Ward after Hurricane Katrina. He is an iconoclastic and controversial figure and as radical as his historic name suggests.

Turner has garnered national attention for his efforts in New Orleans and has been featured in The New York Times and Time magazine. Arriving in New Orleans a few years ago with two dollars in his pocket and a vision to provide opportunity for a community that had been neglected and destitute since Hurricane Katrina, he gained access to an abandoned market once known as Blair Grocery and began building an alternative educational center, Our School at Blair Grocery, where he now teaches local youth to organize and mobilize by growing food.

Jakubowski tackles world issues and Turner works locally: What happens when these two projects collide?

Filmmaker Ian Midgley travelled across the U.S. for a year and a half, filming underground activists. He was given exclusive access to these and other projects, often the first camera to be granted a behind-the-scenes look. The result, his feature documentary, The Spark, is about transforming from passive observer to participant in the world. Midgley’s camera linked these two projects together, and with the release of The Spark, will continue bridging connections through sharing information between proactive organizations worldwide.

This month, we are becoming participants in our own documentary. In the middle of rural Missouri, The Spark team, along with volunteers from around the U.S., will build a tractor to then be donated to the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans. Our documentary crew has partnered with Open Source Ecology to build the latest version of its trademark LifeTrac — a low-cost, multi-purpose tractor — and donate it to Our School at Blair Grocery, to help rebuild the community hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina.

These two projects, with no ties before the film, are now working together to mutual benefit. Open Source Ecology gets to test their latest tractor design, and the school in New Orleans gets another major tool in their arsenal to help fulfill their dream of turning the abandoned lots of the Lower 9th Ward into functioning urban farms.

We want The Spark and this whole tractor initiative to be a model for community rebuilding. Subscribe to our mailing list at for updates about the tractor build and the movie, set to premiere in spring 2014. Help us ignite The Spark!


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