Thus far, the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival has bestowed upon us, in no particular order, snoozing flesh-eaters (Eddie – The Sleepwalking Cannibal), young lesbians contending with monstrous first love (Jack and Diane), two friends contending against alcoholism and metaphysical horrors (Resolution), and a scholar who’s driven to violent ends over a missing copy of a Charles Dickens novel (Nancy, Please). And those are just a few of the New York City festival’s highlights up until this point, but one project sits above them all in terms of real-life importance.
Baseball in the Time of Cholera, directed by aid workers turned filmmakers David Darg and Bryn Mooser, tackles a crucial, call-to-arms subject in the limited span of 27 minutes, but every second counts. The documentary short follows young Joseph Avyns, a kid living in Port au Prince, Haiti, who loves playing baseball and dreams of making it into the MLB, but there’s one major roadblack standing in between him and those goals: His home turf is being ravaged by the disease known as cholera, a deadly ailment that has already claimed the lives of over 7,000 Haitian victims. Concurrently, a lawyer named Mario Joseph is working hard to make the United States take responsibility for allowing the disease to enter Haiti via unsanitary Nepalese soldiers, and, by the film’s end, the worlds of Joseph and Mario intersect in the wake of heartbreaking tragedy.
Riding alongside Darg and Mooser on their mission to raise worldwide awareness about this devastating issue is executive producer Olivia Wilde (TRON: Legacy, Cowboys & Aliens), the prolific Hollywood scene-stealer who’s been actively contributing aid to Haiti’s less fortunate since 2009. Together, the three filmmakers hope that Baseball in the Time of Cholera (which will begin a limited theatrical run in Los Angeles on May 4th, at the Laemmle's NoHo 7 theater) reaches as broad an audience as possible with its theme of America’s pastime giving youngsters like Joseph fuel for optimism amidst cholera’s overwhelming impact.
Complex had a chance to sit down with Wilde, Darg, and Mooser over the weekend to discuss Baseball in the Time of Choleraand the magnitude of its messages.
Interview by Matt Barone (@MBarone)
What really struck me about Baseball in the Time of Cholera was just how much of myself at that young age I saw in Joseph and his love for baseball; by putting such a relatable face to this bigger issue of what’s going on in Haiti, it really put things into perspective. Was that your intention?
Bryn Mooser: I’m so glad you felt that, because as filmmakers we wanted to capture that. I think that so many times there are these big numbers thrown out: 500,000 people have been sickened by Cholera, which is 5% of the population of Haiti, and 7,030 people have died of cholera in Haiti. And these numbers don’t really mean anything until you really start to, like you did, have a connection with Joseph.
So, for us, we all met Joseph almost two years ago, and he’s been like a little brother to all of us. We were there every step of the way, from getting to know his mother really well to going to Toronto when he got to throw out the first pitch at the Blue Jays game, and then to dealing with the death of his mother, helping the family arrange from a coffin to finding a place to bury her. So that affected us; we’ve been dealing with cholera for the last year-and-a-half, and it wasn’t until our little brother lost his mom, and seeing the pain—and us having that loss, as well, which was small compared to his loss-that it really became a call-to-action.
So I’m glad you felt that, because he’s a special kid—he’s a special kid for us, and this film is really about making sure that his story isn’t lost.
Were you guys working on the film already when you’d met him, or did meeting completely inspire you to make it?
David Darg: We pretty much started that little league baseball team ourselves, and we’d started to document the evolution of the team—they’re street children from Port au Prince. In and of itself, that’s a good story about how these kids are learning social skills and learning how to get along with each other through baseball, so we’d documented that throughout the course of a year, almost. In parallel, Bryn and I are full-time aid workers, so we had been in and amongst cholera, and documenting that on behalf of our organizations.
So we had all of this incredible footage of cholera outbreak, and all of this footage of the baseball team. Then, when Joseph’s mom died, it hit us so hard that we realized we had to shift the focus of the film to tell the bigger story, the more important story of cholera in Haiti. We were fortunate that we had all the footage of cholera outbreak and of the little league team, so that was how we were able to blend it all together.
Olivia, how’d you get involved with the film?
Olivia Wilde: I knew that these guys were trying to make a film about the baseball team that they’d put together, so right when the little league project was born, I said, “Whatever you guys do with this, I want to be a part of it.” As a producer, you just want to attach yourself to filmmakers who are doing interesting, valuable, and important work. We made a film together last year, called Sun City Picture House, and I really enjoyed the process of getting the word out on that film; this film is different and equally beautiful, so I came on as a producer and I was thrilled to see that this film is a call-to-action.
It’s much more than just a story—it’s really a movement. It really should inspire people to get together and put pressure on the U.N., and I think that as a producer the most important thing you can do is get the filmmakers whatever it is they need to tell the story. That’s what I wanted to do, and I’ve been lucky enough to do it twice with these guys, now.