“Lives, not Grades” documentary by Romanian Daniel Druhora wins Emmy at 74th Annual Los Angeles Area Emmy Awards

  • The film tells the story of 36 students from the University of Southern California who travel to Europe’s largest refugee camp to build innovative solutions to aid the tens of thousands of refugees living on the Greek Island of Lesvos;
  • The film is written, produced and directed by Daniel Druhora, a Romanian who emigrated to the United States immediately following the Revolution;
  • The Emmy was awarded for Best Independent Programming withing the 74th Los Angeles Area Emmy Awards;
  • “Lives, Not Grades” premieres in Romania on September 17 in Cluj-Napoca with Daniel Druhora in attendance


“Lives, Not Grades”, a documentary made by Daniel Druhora, a Romanian living in Los Angeles, won the Emmy Award in the regional competition in Los Angeles 2022. The award was won in the category of the best independent program. Daniel Druhora has emigrated to the U.S. right after the anti-communist Revolution in Romania, more than 30 years ago.

The documentary tells the story of 36 USC (University of Southern California) students who travel to the largest refugee camp in Europe with the hope of providing innovative solutions to the tens of thousands of refugees on the Greek island of Lesvos. Students in the university’s Innovation for Global Crises program apply principles of engineering, design and entrepreneurship to solve the problems of communities at the center of global crises.

The Emmy award was granted for the best independent programme, within the 74th Annual Los Angeles Area Emmy Awards.

Throughout the film, USC students focus on problems with sanitation, shelter, electricity, and education for the more than 20,000 refugees of Moria Camp – a place described as “hell on earth” by locals. The inventions created by the class still have a lasting impact today. Duet, for example, a micro-philanthropy platform co-founded by Micheal Cesar ‘19, got its start during the class.

Creating a film centered on an evolving issue like a refugee crisis, weighed heavily on the film’s creators. “I didn’t want this to be just another issue-driven film that people forget about quickly,” said Druhora. “To engineer is human while embracing the possibility of failure.”

None of the creators of the film ever imagined it gaining as much traction as it has in the world of television.

“This is not something that we would have imagined,” said USC professor Bucrin Becerik-Gerber who co-produced the film ad traveled with the students to Lesvos.  “From the beginning, our goal was to communicate this innovative way of teaching to others. I truly believe this effort needs to be replicated by other universities.” she said.

The film showcases problem-solving in line with The Grand Challenges Scholars Program, a new educational model to prepare engineers to be world changers. Throughout “Lives, Not Grades” students were constantly pushed out of their comfort zone as they were shown taking problem solving into real world situations.

This is a story about the power of empathy,” Druhora said. “You see the transformation of these students as they struggle to make sense of the chaos of humanity – the realization that on the way to changing the world you have to first change yourself.”

Daniel Druhora is an award-winning filmmaker who has worked on the development and post-production of feature films The Land, Gangster Squad, and The Lego Movie. An émigré to the U.S. in the aftermath of Romania’s 1989 Revolution, he has been involved in humanitarian development work in several countries, which influenced his work. He is currently producing 1000 Saras about Olympic swimmer, humanitarian and accused “criminal mastermind” Sara Mardini for broadcasters ARD and ARTE. His short film Elie’s Overcoat won an MPSE Golden Reel Award.  He is currently directing and producing “Cloudwalkers” about the creation of the internet and the emergence of the Age of A.I.

“Lives, Not Grades,” will have its Romanian premiere on September 17, 2022 in Cluj-Napoca, with Daniel Druhora in attendance.


Trailer is available here.

Daniel DruhoradocumentaryemmyLivesLos Angeles Area Emmy Awardsnot GradesRomanianstudents
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