Monday, July 18, 2011

Cinematically Inclined: "Inside Disaster: Haiti"

This Thursday, July 21, the International Federation of Red Crosses, the Canadian Red Cross and REEL Causes jointly present the documentary Inside Disaster: Haiti at the Vancity Theatre in Vancouver.

Inside Disaster: Haiti is a groundbreaking documentary by Nadine Pequeneza capturing the response of the International Federation of Red Crosses (IFRC) as they are faced with responding to the single biggest disaster in human history at the time. Given that the quake rocked with 59 aftershocks in a country rife with abject poverty, the emergency response team put together by the IFRC would have to be considerably more prepared with logistics and emergency responses than usual. For instance, in other common disasters, Emergency Response Units (ERU) are prepared and deployed at the site itself. Haiti was such a catastrophe that the IFRC dispatched 10 ERUs before they even arrived in Port-au-Prince. While the word “epic” has been used to describe frivolous entertainments with aspirations of greatness, the word “epic” in the context of this operation lends the term weighty gravity and real consequence.

Understanding the state of the nation, the documentary crew prepared themselves for arrival as if they were in the middle of a war itself. This is gritty, down-to-the-bone filmmaking, capturing real human drama, unmanufactured unlike “reality” television, in real time. The crew (and everyone else working in relief, for that matter) had no luxury accommodations and understood that such conventions like leisurely paced editing and careful lighting orchestrations would have been logistically impossible while they bore witness to the horrors of the aftermath. In other words, this was not a working holiday for bored trust-fund babies “doing” an internship because it looks good on a resume. Everyone who came aboard to work believed in the project and was committed to documenting the efforts of the IFRC to raise awareness of the disaster and still-ongoing humanitarian efforts.

The documentary follows nine players in the aftermath of the disaster: three survivors and six IFRC volunteers and employees, including various officers in the areas of logistics and hospital coordination. What makes this documentary so compelling is that it does not filter the crisis through the prism of conventional narrative cinema, but through the eyes and ears of the people who were there, living and breathing the disaster. One of the project coordinators was himself medevaced out of Gaza and understands first-hand the immense pressure and responsibilities in humanitarian aid, and the character of the people in the aid industry. This puts the cause front and centre for all to see, and is not a mere background into a story of self-discovery.

Inside Disaster: Haiti is presented by the Canadian Red Cross at a benefit screening on Thursday, July 21, 2011 at the Vancity Theatre in downtown Vancouver. Tickets are $11.00 and the CRC has partnered with the non-profit organization REEL Causes for this screening. REEL Causes exists with the objective of presenting socially conscious filmmaking to the public, and encouraging healthy debate in a public forum. This Thursday’s screening is accompanied by a Q&A with the filmmakers, to be presented via Skype. You can view the trailer here.

If you would like to support the IFRC and Canadian Red Cross, you can purchase a copy of the documentary here.