Filmmaker finds focus in disaster relief efforts

When Nadine Pequeneza decided to film a documentary about humanitarian aid, she didn’t look for Haiti — Haiti found her.

“I didn’t decide to focus on Haiti,” Pequeneza said. “Haiti decided to focus on us.”

Pequeneza is currently editing and finalizing her documentary titled Inside Disaster. The documentary focuses on seven individuals (three Haitians and four aid workers) during the aftermath of the Jan. 12 earthquake that struck Haiti.

The former journalism student originally wanted to pursue a career in print, but soon realized that television and video better suited her passion.

“I thought it was a more powerful medium,” she said. “I always knew that I wanted to do a documentary because I like to dive into a topic. I like to know it.”

Pequeneza says that most ‘disaster’ documentaries focus on the disaster itself. But she’s explored new boundaries by focusing on humanitarian aid and the people affected by disaster.

When she decided that to film a documentary was something she could put her heart into, she contacted the Red Cross.

The Red Cross is the largest agency delivering humanitarian relief in 187 countries. Since the Red Cross has such an extended reach, Pequeneza negotiated with the organization so that she could accompany them on their next large-scale international relief effort.

“We were on-call (and) ready to go since Sept. 2009. We were basically waiting,” Pequeneza said.

Haiti answered that call. When Pequeneza arrived in Haiti it wasn’t so much the damage caused by the earthquake that left an imprint in her memory, it was something else.

“I think it was talking to the people,” she said. “I really enjoyed talking to the Haitian people, they’re very friendly, out-going and extremely talkative. A lot of Haitians really just want to talk to people and explain their story.”

Pequeneza has a lot of work to do before she emerges with the final product. She says there is approximately 120 hours of footage that must be organized.

She also hopes that Inside Disaster will be shown at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival and internationally as well. Keep an eye out on Jan. 12 2011 for the television debut on TVO.