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Justin Wren, a Mixed Martial Artist fighter, leaves the cage of the UFC for the rainforest of the Congo to free Pygmy slaves.
Justin Wren, a Mixed Martial Artist fighter, leaves the cage of the UFC for the rainforest of the Congo to free Pygmy slaves.
854 backers pledged $63,318 to help bring this project to life.

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$63,318

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"Fighting for Freedom" is a documentary film telling the powerful story of Justin Wren, professional MMA fighter (former UFC fighter) turned Big Pygmy brother, fighting for the freedom of the Pygmies in the Congo. 

This film will tell the backstory of Justin's career--his dream as kid to be a UFC fighter, his rise to fame in the wrestling and professional fighter ring, his move to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to fight for Pygmies in 2011, and now his return to MMA fighting with Bellator MMA on Spike TV on August 28th.

Justin preparing for his comeback fight on August 28th
Justin preparing for his comeback fight on August 28th

Our ultimate goal is to bring the best film to our audience. While our $60,000.00 goal will help us finish the film, anything above and beyond this amount will go towards its promotion and distribution.

This is how we are going to use the funds raised:

  • Travel Costs for our crew to go back to the Congo to capture the rest of the story
  • Travel Costs for our crew to travel around the US to gather additional interviews pertinent to the story
  • Hiring a composer to score the film. A HUGE need to dramatically tell the story.
  • Post-Production Costs to master the film
  • Legal fees and licensing fees for archival footage.
Justin "the Big Pygmy" Wren
Justin "the Big Pygmy" Wren

Enslaved to the neighboring Mokpala (meaning "non-Pygmy") tribe, the Mbuti Pygmy people had zero land of their own, no access to water, and no possibility to grow food on their own. Because of this, the Mbuti Pygmies have no choice but to work for the Mokpala to receive food. This slave labor results in a few bananas or minnows for the Pygmies each day, keeping the Pygmies hungry so that they will return to work the next day. 

Justin Wren and his organization Fight for the Forgotten, partnering with a non-profit water development organization called Water4, set out to seek the freedom of these oppressed and forgotten people. Clean water wells brought access to new life for both oppressor and oppressed and offered an incentive for the Mokpala to release the Pygmies. 

In depth community development initiatives have been developed and implemented since 2011. To date, 2,470 acres of land has been petitioned, lobbied, and legally purchased from the Mokpala (non-Pygmies) and put in the name of the Mbuti Pygmies. 25 water wells have been drilled for both the Pygmies and Mokpala, both of whom had been losing children due to waterborne disease because of zero access to clean water. A small scale farming initiative has recently begun to teach the Mokpala better farming practices, and to teach the Pygmies how to farm their new land to provide for themselves. 17 Congolese nationals and community development specialist have been hired as full time staff because of the strong vision to empower the locals.

Now, several Pygmy villages are experiencing freedom for the first time. However, many Pygmies still remained enslaved. 

Your contribution in the making of this film will help Justin fulfill his promise to the Pygmies by giving them a much needed voice in the world.  

We believe stories can change the world, and we hope you will join us on this journey in telling the "Fighting for Freedom" story.

Justin with his Pygmy family
Justin with his Pygmy family
Filmmaker Derek Watson and the Mbuti Pygmies
Filmmaker Derek Watson and the Mbuti Pygmies

Risks and challenges

Nothing worth accomplishing comes without risk. Making a film about a real man's quest to fight for freedom is a risk. His story and heart are on the line.

But freedom for the Pygmies is worth any risk to us. As a fighter. As a filmmaker. And a supporter...so thank you!

Traveling to the Congo is a real risk. We've done it before, but traveling and filming in such a remote part of the world is tricky. Our aim is to lean on our team's experience of traveling in this part of the world to ensure that we reach our ultimate goal of wrapping up this film.

Distribution for any film is difficult--how is the world going to see our story once it is completed? This is true for us, but we've also received encouraging go-aheads from several major distribution outlets. We've come this far in telling this story...there's no way we'll stop until the world hears this story!

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $15 or more About $15

    Signed photograph of Justin "The Big Pygmy" Wren.

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    Pledge $30 or more About $30

    Same as above.

    Plus, your very own DVD copy of "Fighting for Freedom."

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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $35 or more About $35

    TSHIRT only!

    Get your very own Fighting for the Forgotten t-shirt.

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    30 backers
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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $55 or more About $55

    Signed Photograph

    Plus, a signed copy of Justin Wren's autobiograpny "Fight for the Forgotten" published by Simon and Schuster and released September 15th

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    131 backers
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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Same as above.

    Plus, a Fight for the Forgotten T-shirt AND a Signed copy of Justin Wren's autobiography "Fight for the Forgotten."

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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    Same as above.

    Plus, want to hear more about Justin's story? You'll get a personal phone call or Skype chat from Justin.

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Signed Photograph
    DVD of "Fighting for Freedom"
    Fight for the Forgotten T-shirt
    Signed copy of Justin Wren's autobiography "Fight for the Forgotten"

    Plus, a front row seat to one of Justin's training sessions in Dallas, TX (transportation not included).

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    Reward no longer available 10 backers
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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Pygmy hand print on traditional bark cloth.

    These one-of-a-kind prints are a very personal gesture of gratitude from our Pygmy family.

    Also includes...
    Signed Photograph
    DVD of "Fighting for Freedom"
    Fight for the Forgotten T-shirt
    Signed copy of Justin Wren's autobiography "Fight for the Forgotten"

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  9. Select this reward

    Pledge $750 or more About $750

    Unique art work created on traditional bark cloth.

    Each piece will be an original work of art, rich in history, culture, and story.

    Also, includes...
    Signed Photograph
    DVD of "Fighting for Freedom"
    Fight for the Forgotten T-shirt
    Signed copy of Justin Wren's autobiography "Fight for the Forgotten"

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    Pledge $2,500 or more About $2,500

    Signed Photograph
    DVD of "Fighting for Freedom"
    Fight for the Forgotten T-shirt
    Signed copy of Justin Wren's autobiography "Fight for the Forgotten"

    Plus, Justin's fight gloves from his comeback fight.

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    Reward no longer available 1 backer
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  11. Select this reward

    Pledge $9,950 or more About $9,950

    Signed Photograph
    DVD of "Fighting for Freedom"
    Fight for the Forgotten T-shirt
    Signed copy of Justin Wren's autobiography "Fight for the Forgotten"

    Plus, 2 tickets to one of Justin's fights &
    Spend some time with The Big Pygmy himself

    [Airfare for two people from contiguous United States, one night's hotel stay, and two fight tickets]

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Funding period

- (35 days)