Raising social awareness necessitates strategy and creativity, and the founders of FACEPAINT, Ken Yoffe and Ellen Weisberg, are using the animated film Justin and the Werloobee to promote altruism and bystander intervention in bullying situations. The animated film is an adaptation of the co-founders’ published children’s fantasy book titled Fruit of the Vine.
The production of Justin and the Werloobee was made possible through the royalties that Yoffe and Weisberg received for the development of a leukemia therapy. Yoffe is a pediatrician and holds a doctorate degree in Genetics, while Weisberg is a cancer researcher at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Principal Associate in Medicine at Harvard Medical School with a doctorate in Pharmacology. Both are very passionate about writing short stories, memoirs, and poetry, which are published in PKA’s Advocate, The Writing Disorder, Bewildering Stories, and Natural Solutions. The two have successfully published children’s geography and anti-bullying books under Waldorf Publishing and Galde Press. They have also published two novels under Waldorf and Chipmunkapublishing.
Justin and the Werloobee is widely accepted for screening at 106 film festivals across the globe. It has received several nominations and has been a finalist, semifinalist, and quarter-finalist in many film festivals. The animated film also received multiple awards from 42 film festivals, including Awards of Excellence for Children/ Family Programming, Special Purpose Productions, and Animation.
As a nonprofit organization, FACEPAINT’s mission is to create a more informed public by providing access to educational books, films, and materials. FACEPAINT originally was a circus troupe that visited and performed at Boys and Girls Clubs and nursing homes throughout New England. The goal was to raise bullying awareness through circus-based performances and book donations. The circus troupe, like the nonprofit, was originally called FACEPAINT (which stands for Fantasy and Circus Entertainers Partnering Against Intolerance).
FACEPAINT plans to use Justin and the Werloobee as a fundraiser to promote cancer awareness and treatment. FACEPAINT is partnering with the NGO, ROKO Cancer Charitable Trust, which intends to raise $50,000 for their Early Detection Camps in underprivileged communities in India. Ultimately, the initiative plans to establish 50 camps that will screen around 10,000 underserved citizens and provide relevant data for additional large-scale fundraising programs in the future. The project was slowed down because of the COVID-19 surge in India. Each camp has a mobile screening unit, which includes a bus with doctors, mammography, and cervical and prostate screening materials. The first screening camp, funded by FACEPAINT, was established in Punjab and served about 170 citizens.
To further increase cancer awareness, the organization uses Weisberg’s cancer memoir, From Both Sides. The article describes one person with two perspectives: Weisberg as a cancer researcher and Weisberg as a cancer patient. From Both Sides was among the 50 titles listed from among 328 to be given the 2019 Mariner Award from the Bewildering Stories editorial team.
In the next five years, FACEPAINT will continue to pursue bigger feats for its mission by continuing to translate Weisberg’s cancer memoir into other languages to raise cancer awareness. Yoffe and Weisberg have started production of a second 3D animated short, based on their published children’s book, Full Moon. This story is about sisterly love, and, like Justin and the Werloobee, promotes selflessness and empathy. They plan to submit the finished film to festivals as they have for Justin and the Werloobee and, if successful, they will offer it to schools and similarly use it as a fundraiser to support cancer screening and treatment in countries in need. With Yoffe and Weisberg’s commitment to see their advocacies through, there is hope for many individuals living with cancer in the future.
Find out more about FACEPAINT by visiting its website. Follow its Facebook and Instagram accounts for updates on its latest projects and initiatives, and visit and subscribe to their Ellen Weisberg YouTube channel.