“You’re in for something exciting this semester.”
For most, this statement could be reacted to with trepidation and uneasiness: something “exciting” and something “fun” or “worthwhile” or “won’t make me cry in frustration and sleep deprivation” are not necessarily the same thing. But for the students in Paulette Moore’s Spring 2012 Documentary class, “exciting” did involve “fun” and “worthwhile.” Through interviews, illustrations, personal testimonials, and photographs, the class of 16 created a feature-length documentary entitled “Weaving Life.” This 57-minute long film explores the life of Dan Terry, the humanitarian who worked with the most marginalized in Afghanistan and was then executed in 2010.
Terry grew up in India as a Missionary Kid and had a heart for adventure and the people one meets in unexpected places. He was passionate about taking the road less traveled, as illustrated by an anecdote involving Terry and a friend driving from Switzerland to India, taking hippy-hitch hikers along the way. Seeing the world and the people in it amplified Terry’s ability to see the “beauty of the people,” and he consequently made friends and connections everywhere he went.
Terry spent more than thirty years living and working in Afghanistan, raising two daughters and helping countless of the poorest Afghans. He believed in sustainable, local development; a grass-roots approach to empower the Afghan people, not leading them to believe that only outsiders could take control of their lives. Terry was in love with the people of Afghanistan and the life that he led there, even though that meant living with the assumed risk of one of the most dangerous and unstable countries in the world. In 2010, while returning from a meeting with a rural village, Terry and nine other humanitarians were executed by insurgents.
The Documentary students here at EMU took this story of philanthropy, service, and power and depicted it in such a way that connects the viewer with the process of telling the story, and the story itself. Every member of the class expressed what they had learned or realized throughout working with Terry’s life, but tried to avoid making it a main focus of the documentary: instead of in a traditional interview format, like with Terry’s friends and family, the students sat in front of the camera with their thoughts voiced over. The effect was one of slight detachment, which enforced the importance of what they were saying, and how that pertained to the subject, rather than themselves.
Chris Stauffer, a senior, said, “Over the course of the documentary, my perspective did not change, but rather it deepened. The many hours of story telling and photographs by Jonathan Larson and Dan Terry respectively really opened up Afghan society [and] culture.” The students also expressed excitement and about all that they learned about themselves and their abilities and potential as film-makers.
Through hours of work and commitment, the students brought voice to a wonderful worker, a man in love with an area that has been so misunderstood in the wider world, and the impact that he continues to make today. Emma King, a sophomore, was impressed with the audio design and animations, and the “quality of the entire thing was really good for a student-made film.” ABC had a similar reaction to Emma’s, and consequently bought the documentary to be aired this fall. So be on the look out for EMU’s very own “Weaving Life” on your television set!
Kate Swartz, Staff Writer