top of page
Award Winner

Festival Season:

April 2024

Go To The People

Go To The People



Jeff Sewald
Jeff Sewald


Jeff Sewald

Run Time:


Awarded for the following Category(s):

Awarded Category(s)

Inspired by childhood memories of accompanying his father, a family physician, on house calls, and his mother, a nurse, on home-care visits, Dr. Jim Withers began providing medical care to Pittsburgh’s unsheltered homeless population in 1992. Initially dressing as a homeless person (and assisted by a street-savvy formerly homeless man), Jim began making nighttime street rounds in the alleys and under the bridges of the city. Inspired by this bold outreach, other clinical volunteers joined in, and Operation Safety Net was born. Today, the program is recognized as one of the nation’s first full-time street medicine concerns, and it continues to set the standard for this unique form of health care. Over time, Operation Safety Net inspired a movement that has since spread throughout the nation and the world. This film communicates Dr. Withers’ holistic health-care vision while showing firsthand the work of Operation Safety Net, and describing the effects of the movement that it has promulgated.

Submitter Statement

Jeff Sewald is an award-winning filmmaker and writer who specializes in defining the cultural and historical significance of people, places, things and events. In 2000, he founded “Backstory Partners” to develop his own projects, and launched the company with “Gridiron & Steel,” a documentary for public television focusing on the spiritual relationship that exists between the sport of football and the people and communities of southwestern Pennsylvania. Mr. Sewald’s next documentary feature, “Peter Matthiessen: No Boundaries,” was narrated by actress Glenn Close, premiered at BAM in New York, and received its national PBS debut in April 2009. In 2018, the MCG Jazz organization released “We Knew What We Had: The Greatest Jazz Story Never Told,” a feature documentary written and directed by Mr. Sewald about the history of jazz music in Pittsburgh and its almost unknown but all-important connection to the growth of jazz in America. His most recent documentary feature, “Go to the People,” planned for release in 2024, tells the story of “CNN Hero” Dr. Jim Withers and his 30-year effort to bring mobile “street medicine” to homeless people around the world. In addition to film work, Mr. Sewald is a writer and editor who co-authored “The Life and Deaths of Cyril Wecht: Memoirs of America’s Most Controversial Forensic Pathologist,” which was published in September 2020. And since 2006, he has written more than 70 profiles of Western Pennsylvania luminaries for Pittsburgh Quarterly magazine. His favorite 25 will be published as a collection in the fall of 2024.

Key Cast

Other Credits

Director of Photography: Matt Bockelman

Location Audio: Alberto Sewald

Editor: David H. Cohen

Composer: John Keltonic

bottom of page