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Show Times: Reason to Hope doc goes behind headlines of earthquake

by Claudia Mak / Beacon Correspondent • December 1, 2011

Tonight, 7:00 p.m. | Bright Family Screening Room | Free

After a 7.0 magnitude earthquake ravaged Haiti last January, journalists and filmmakers flocked to the devastated island as fast as aid workers did.

The numbers were staggering: two million people displaced and 200,000 dead. The destruction was evident, and although the media hopped on the story quickly, many also left just as hastily.

Filmmaker Theodore “Regge” Life, Emerson’s director-in-residence, teamed up with CBS journalists, correspondent Bill Whitaker, and producer Erin Lyle George, who were able to stay in Haiti for an entire month after the earthquake.  Life aimed to look at the disaster from a different perspective —  through the eyes of the journalists who were able to experience a demolished Haiti first-hand. The team’s documentary chronicling the continuing story in Haiti, Reason to Hope, will screen tonight in the Bright Family Screening Room at 7 p.m.

Life told the Beacon he pursued the project by getting in touch with Whitaker and George so they could share their experiences.  “The film is a kind of reporter’s notebook, but much more,” he said.  The personal accounts from these journalists were a mix of struggling to produce stories for the news while simultaneously experiencing the disaster; they were left feeling like they needed to contribute more.

The biggest reason the media didn’t extensively cover Haiti, Life believes, is because “when people think of Haiti, nothing positive comes to mind — they just think of misery and suffering.” What the media left uncovered, Whitaker and George said they share through this documentary. Although the actual damage is hard to stomach, they believe the truth needs to be revealed.

Freshman visual and media arts major Dylan Stein had the opportunity to visit Haiti with his father, a surgeon, and created a short documentary there.  Stein said he feels like the media trivialized the disaster.

“I feel like the media made it seem like there aren’t any problems there anymore, that everything got cleaned up, but that is not the case,” said Stein. “I went almost half a year after the earthquake had happened and there was still more rubble than is really imaginable.”

Reason to Hope seeks to expose how carelessly the media treats disasters and the real devastation of Haiti.  As rebuilding continues today, the film serves as a reminder of the destruction and the continuing need for the relief.