My passion is filmmaking. My purpose is to understand the effectiveness and ethics of Americans and other westerners who volunteer abroad and how our host communities perceive us. My idea is a feature-length documentary-in-progress called H.O.P.E. Was Here. Watch the 10-minute teaser here: https://vimeo.com/52465406.
H.O.P.E. Was Here tells the story of a Stonehill College alternative spring break trip to the slums of Lima, Peru from two juxtaposing points-of-view: that of the American volunteers, and that of the Peruvian locals whom they visit.
I've been making this film for 18 months in Boston and Lima. With over 70 hours of footage, the film is about 3/4 shot. The only remaining footage, however, is the most crucial: the point-of-view of local Peruvians. I would use the $1,000 to get on a plane this February and do 7-10 days worth of shooting in Canto Grande, Peru, where I'd capture life as it occurs without the imposition of 20 American college students. I'd also interview the local people with whom the students work to see what they think of all this.
I'd complete the film later in 2013 and begin screening it at universities that have alternative spring break trips and international studies programs. The film will be submitted to festivals across the world and will be released globally online.
Philanthropic travel is booming, hence the existence of this grant. Recent estimates suggest that volunteering on vacation, or 'voluntourism', is growing at about the rate that cruising was in the 90's. It's hot; it's in vogue; it's what people want to do. But it's also under extreme scrutiny.
Is this the best way to engage international development? Is this what community partners want? How do they see us? How are we affecting them? I want to step back and provide some perspective on our urge to do-good overseas by answering these questions for Canto Grande.
In doing so, I hope to give voice to these Peruvians and to re-evaluate our position as well-intentioned westerns in the developing world.
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Tuesday, November 20