Haiti documentary featuring Sean Penn challenges myths of development in Haiti

Daniel James March 07, 2013

Haiti Documentary, Sean Penn

Haiti documentary featuring Sean Penn, provides an intimate portrait of the country’s post-quake relief efforts

(Newswire.net — March 7th,2013) Montreal, QC, Canada – A new documentary “Haiti Untold” featuring Sean Penn in Haiti challenges myths of lack of progress since the eathquake in January 2010. Mr Penn founded JP/HRO an NGO, in response to the earthquake and has since spent half of his time in the country, active in areas such as rubble removal, education and healthcare. The film also showcases examples of other successful development initiatives in the country, from established organisations such World Vision, to businesses such as Digicel, the country’s main cellphone provider.

“I don’t like to apologize for the fact that in Haiti the real disaster was not the eartquake, but poverty itself” says Mr Penn in the film.

“When we started out with the intention of producing a Haiti documentary, the media focus was day-to-day rescue stories, food, and death tolls. As the crisis matured, within a few weeks, the media stories being reported about Haiti became increasingly hostile, often shedding a very negative light on the whole relief and rebuilding initiative.” Says Dan Shannon  the film’s co-director and executive producer.

“We made our starting point for “Haiti Untold” to tell the story we saw the media was pretty much glossing over, namely that good work was also getting done in the country, albeit slowly, and that the money coming into the country was and is to this day, producing results.  For sure it will take years to see a completely rebuilt Haiti. But the tone of the message coming out of the country needed to be set straight and still does to this day.” says Mr. Shannon

Criticism of conditions in the camps where hundreds of thousands of displaced persons sought shelter and the slow progress of aid being distributed were often cited as ‘proof’ of Haiti’s inability to rise out of a seemly never-ending spiral of misery and/or mismanagement.  “The media in fact, in my view have a role to play in the scale of Haiti’s difficulties after the earthquake.  For the first 30 days after the quake, the planet witnessed an unprecedented outpouring of generosity and goodwill towards the country, and the media came out in droves to capture the moment.  Despite this, within weeks the tone shifted from “lets do what we can” to “nothing good will come of this” The impact of not  reporting actual progress in the country cannot be underestimated. Funding and investment into the country are directly related to the stories that come out of the country” Says Mr Shannon.

“What’s the biggest problem with the media?” says Sean Penn in Haiti “Its that there is no media. That’s one. When they report, they report as Rollling Stone did, by sending someone down here who brings an American perspective of history in the middle of a period of time, that is incredibly inflammatory, when you know, people are desperately trying to get out from under rubble and need a unified Haiti.” says Mr Penn in the film.

“I find with the more serious journalist, who do their homework their criticism is more muted” says Dave Toycen, president of World Vision Canada  “Because they begin to understand the complexity of what we’re dealing with. So now what you wish for I think is more reporting and more metrics on just what’s been accomplished. I use one example that was shared with me by the senior U.N person in the country. And he just said basically with all the troubles that we’ve had around rubish removal for example. The argument is that in Haiti in one year they moved as much as it took the U.S to move in two years in the 9/11 site. So it’s that kind of stuff keeping in perspective” says Mr. Toycen.

Produced by ID Vision Films, a Montreal-based documentary production company, Haiti Untold premiered at the Bahamas International Film Festival in December 2012, and will announce a US festival premiere very shortly.

To view the trailer or download the press kit, visit:


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