Darg: It was mainly a logistical constraint, because we’re not full-time filmmakers—we’re full-time aid workers. And so we were making this as best as we could part-time. We realize that there’s much more of the story to tell, and the struggle for us was trying to cram in as much information as we can, so that you really understand the most important parts of it, and telling that in a coherent way, obviously. There are lots of things that we’d hoped to add in, and hopefully we were able to tell the message concisely.
Mooser: And I also think that one of the things that draws us to making short documentaries is that, in this sort of YouTube generation, sadly... Maybe it’s not “sadly,” but information is really consumed on a smaller scale, in terms of length. People are constantly seeing shorter videos, so, I think, as filmmakers and storytellers, you want to reach the widest audience that you can. People are a little more accustomed to these shorter stories, so for us it’s a great format to really work in, because people really respond. The goal is just to try to tell a really powerful story, and one that has the potential to make a huge impact, to getting the U.N. to take responsibility and to helping the Haitian government eradicate cholera.
That short format is one we’re very comfortable with, especially since we both shoot all of the media for our non-profit organizations; we’re used to this format of 15 minutes or 27 minutes.
When you’re filming something as intense and personal as the cholera outbreak on its ground level, do you run into any resistance from the Haitian government or any other powers that be?
Mooser: Since David and I have both been working in Haiti for so long, we both know the parameters of where we can and can’t shoot, and what the lines are that we can’t cross. Luckily for us, the subjects of this film are like family to us, and Joseph is very proud of the film. He said somebody came up to him on the street, who had seen it, and told him that he’s a “superhero.” To us, that made the whole film worthwhile.
Darg: It’s an intimate film for us, because we’re so close to the family affected by it, and Joseph himself. I think if we were just filmmakers who wanted to parachute in and tell this story, it would be very difficult for us to have this kind of access, without having these pre-existing relationships that we’ve developed over time.
Once the Tribeca Film Festival ends next weekend, what’s the plan for trying to get more people to see Baseball in the Time of Cholera? Because it definitely needs to be seen by as many people as possible.
Wilde: Absolutely, you’re 100% right. It will be at the Telluride Mountain Film Festival next month, and then hopefully some other festivals after that. Then, it will have a theatrical run in May. After that, the plan is to give the film away for free, to put it online and allow people to share it, because the point is not to make money from this film—the point is to get the word out and contribute to this movement, to make sure that 7,000 more people don’t die next year of cholera.
The baseball angle should certainly attract a wide range of people, too, even though Joseph’s love for baseball is only a small part of the film. Do you see that aspect of the film as a gateway in for otherwise resistant viewers?
Wilde: Yeah, and that was originally what the film was supposed to be about: just baseball. And it organically seemed to evolve as you guys were filming.
Darg: If we were just going to make a documentary about cholera and Haiti, there’d be a very limited audience for that, I think. But by having a very personal story about… It’s an interest story, really, about kids playing baseball in Haiti. That’s a good door into the subject, and the film sheds light on that.
Mooser: Our first film was about the year after the earthquake, and so it was really about the rebuilding of the country, and we represented that with the building of this movie theater. With Baseball in the Time of Cholera, it’s really about the second year after the earthquake, and for anybody who knows anything about Haiti or who works in Haiti, it’s about cholera. So the film hopes to be a snapshot of a year in Haiti two years after the earthquake.
We hope that the film gives a sense of… This is what’s happening, and here are some kids who are playing baseball; there’s a lawyer who’s fighting the U.N., there are aid workers out there working to treat victims of cholera, and all of these stories are running sort of parallel, and they find ways to meet towards the end of the film. But that idea of taking a snapshot of a taste of what’s happening in Haiti is what we really think is the most important aspect.
The thought that a film solely about cholera in Haiti wouldn’t appeal to a large audience is pretty sad, though, and it seems that it’s partly an issue of people outside of the country not being educated enough about the outbreak and what’s been going on there.
Wilde: Well, I think the earthquake was such an enormous catastrophe, and there was this enormous outpouring of generosity and care from people all over the world. People really contributed in many ways, with their attention specifically, and I think fatigue follows that. I think that’s part of it.
People also tend to think of Haiti as a place where bad things are always happening, so when they see on the news that people are dying from a sickness that they don’t understand, they just assume that’s kind of what happens in a developing world. Sadly, that’s something that people take for granted: the idea of that’s just how life is for those people, and that’s just simply wrong, of course.
It’s up to people who understand the issue to update their peers about it, and I think documentary film is the most powerful and beautiful way to do that. And there have been a few great journalists who’ve been covering this issue, so it’s not that no one has been paying attention, but documentary film is a great way to get people to understand the personal effects of something like cholera.
And just as you said, by being brought into the story by Joseph, you can then understand the calamity of his mother dying of this disease, and how sudden and foreign this disease is—it’s certainly not just a part of a developing world. Cholera hadn’t been in Haiti for 100 years, so it’s a combination of all those factors. So it’s great that now there’s a film that will bring it into the consciousness, and hopefully stop it from happening again.
Darg: A good sound-bite for you, since Complex is a men’s brand…
Wilde: I’ve got one: boobs!
Darg: A good sound-bite is that, in America, we have seasons for our sports—we have football season, and now we’ve just entered baseball season. In Haiti, they’re entering cholera season, and they have seasons of suffering. We really feel that this film is an important one to help bring an end to that cholera season in Haiti. The rains come in and the cholera rises, and then the rains go and the cholera dips down. We want this to be the final year that it really explodes again.
People should not continue to die from this disease, and the U.N. has the power to really put a stop to it, but they haven’t been doing that, despite the fact that it’s their fault that the disease is on the island. So the message of this film: Take action, United Nations, because it’s your responsibility to stand up and do what’s right for the victims of this disease.
Interview by Matt Barone (@MBarone)
To find out more: Baseball in the Time of Cholera