Almost to a close! And I’ve just now found a few minutes to update my work status; it’s been a busy few months since I last posted on our way to Liberia, W. Africa. It was a terrific trip – heartbreaking to see the country still struggling under the weight of Ebola, but also hopeful to witness the resilience and determination of people who simply refuse to give up in their struggle for a better life. I just wrapped production on a new show for MSNBC – a medical documentary series called The Chain – set to air January 2017! Details to come. With just a few work weeks left before the holidays I’m turning my attention to Still We Rise with the goal of getting a rough cut of the film out as soon as humanly possible. I’m also looking to next year and like so many in the media, urgently feeling the call to report serious stories that matter in the wake of the Election. I could say more. Lots more. But instead I’ll leave it to someone much more articulate and eloquent:
“I still believe that if your aim is to change the world, journalism is a more immediate short-term weapon.” – Tom Stoppard
Finally. In a week’s time we’ll be on our way back to Liberia, W. Africa to finish shooting our documentary STILL WE RISE. It’s been two years since our last trip, which was supposed to be our final. Just weeks after we returned, Ebola struck. Now, we’re heading back to document the psychological impact of outbreak and what it’s meant for mental health care in a deeply traumatized part of the world. At the same time, we’ll also bear witness to the extraordinary resilience of Liberians. Still, they RISE. Assuming we’ve got wi-fi I’ll post updates here, and also on our Facebook page. Stay tuned!
Spent most of Summer 2015 producing on a short film for the non-profit organization Timbuktu Renaissance. Through my work in Mali, West Africa for the PBS NewsHour I met the founders of the group, which hopes to rebuild Timbuktu in the wake of its destruction by extremists in 2012. To do this they are using arts, culture and innovation – powerful weapons in the global war on terrorism. Editor Tom Placke and I cut a 5 minute short about the history of Timbuktu, the invasion and the plan to revitalize the ancient city. We circulated the script with one narrator in mind: Morgan Freeman! What better voice could any producer ask for? Fortunately he agreed, and we recorded somewhat on the fly at his hotel room in NYC. Yes, his voice is otherworldly. And yes, he is a true gentleman.
Check out the film at the link below. And if you like what you see, share it. Tweet about it. And think about ways in which you can support this important work…
An exciting start to 2015 with the completion of a few stories I’ve been working on for months…
MALI: Just back from a memorable trip (my first) to Mali, West Africa for the PBS NewsHour. I traveled there to produce three stories for correspondent Jeffrey Brown for a series called “Culture at Risk.” From Mali’s capital, Bamako, and the storied city of Timbuktu we reported on the country’s rich culture – specifically its music & ancient manuscripts – and the threat posed to these treasures by the jihadist militants who raided the North in 2012 and continue to threaten. Mali is a beautiful place. Having traveled to several countries in Africa I was struck by how relaxed and friendly the people are. They are peaceful, which makes the violence wrought by these extremists that much more heartbreaking. Because of security issues we had to travel to Timbuktu on a flight operated by the World Food Program. We never felt uneasy, but the threat is very real. In fact, the week after we returned home terrorists attacked a cafe in Bamako. All of this makes our stories that much more important. Links below….
EBOLA: As the Ebola epidemic reaches an end in Liberia, I reported on the fallout from the crisis in a 10-page feature for Scientific American Mind on orphans and one woman’s quest to save them. This story began in 2012 when I first visited the More Than Me academy in Monrovia. Since then I’ve continued to follow the great work of founder Katie Meyler and her staff, who found themselves on the front lines of the terrifying Ebola epidemic last summer.
“It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do a little…” – Sydney Smith
Just off two incredible, fascinating trips to Kenya, East Africa, where I reported two feature stories for The NewsHour with correspondent Jeffrey Brown – one on the crisis of elephant poaching, the other on a literary festival, emerging African writers and the threat of terrorism. Kenya is a spectacular country. In the past two years its faced a growing threat from extremist terrorist groups and some political unrest. But the beauty of the landscape, and the wildlife, make it a country well worth visiting in a lifetime. I will never forget watching the sun set over Mt. Kilimanjaro as a herd of more than 80 majestic wild elephants passed by, so close to our vehicle I could almost reach out and touch them. A link to our stories below…
Now at work on next steps for “Still We Rise” given the fact that Ebola continues to rage in West Africa. I’m struggling with my instinct – at once journalistic and human – to get on the next flight to Monrovia. But I can’t – no way, no how. I’ve spoken to health authorities here in NJ and were I to make the trip I’d have to be under a 21 day quarantine upon my return – impossible given the fact that I’ve got small kids at home. It’s one of the most frustrating, devastating stories I’ve ever covered. And doing so from the sidelines makes these feelings even worse. But it’s all I can do for now. Working on a lengthy magazine feature about Ebola heroes – details on pub date to come.
“Tough times don’t last, but tough people do…” – R. Schuller
Pausing today to remember Danny Lewin, Internet genius, 9/11 victim/hero and inspiration for my book No Better Time. I continue to get the word out about Danny’s great legacy. On this year’s anniversary, the book is being featured in Tablet, and on several radio programs including WTOP in Washington, DC and WBZ in Boston.
Proud to be producing two important stories in Kenya for The NewsHour on PBS; one on the growing crisis of elephant poaching, the other on the power of poetry in the face of terrorism. Both shooting in Kenya in September, stay tuned for air dates/times.
As for Still We Rise, the documentary film I’ve been producing with Ben Niles in Liberia, West Africa since 2011 – please see the film’s Web site for details. After a successful fundraising campaign to complete the film, the deadly Ebola virus broke out and has since been ravaging the country. In light of this terrible news we have put the film on hold, and devoted our personal resources to supporting our friends on the ground in Liberia as best we can. On a personal note, I am greatly saddened by the trauma Ebola has already caused to Liberians. They’ve suffered so much and for so long, and I wonder just how much they can take. At the same time, I take comfort in knowing that they are the most resilient people I know. And I know that out of this new war they will RISE. Please check our Web site for updates on the news from Liberia and our film: STILL WE RISE
It’s with great excitement that I share the launch of our FIRST fundraising campaign for STILL WE RISE through IndieGoGo. To date, we’ve raised all the funds for several trips to Liberia on our own – calling on the generosity of wonderful friends and family. I even held a community garage sale, which helped us raise money and bags full of supplies that we delivered to Liberians in need on every trip.
Now, we’re in the final push, and we need to cast our net wider to raise the funds to finish the film and release it for the world to see.
Please check out our campaign link below and share it with anyone you know who might lend support to our film and push to bring global mental health out of the shadows.
Honored to kickoff the season with an inspiring, memorable talk to a women’s group from The Associated in Baltimore – thanks to the group for inviting me and helping me to give a “Voice to the Voiceless”…
“From a young age, Danny Lewin seemed to possess an uncanny sense of how short our time is. He vowed never to waste a second. And when he had an idea – even one as audacious as speeding up the Internet – he had to make it happen right away…“
“Little-known but thoroughly captivating life story… A superlatively written and well-deserved tribute to an overlooked internet pioneer and true American hero.” – Booklist
“Bittersweet but celebratory.” – Kirkus
“[A] terrific new biography.” – Tablet
“Exceptional story…fascinating, significant and ultimately moving.” – Amazon Vine
Still We Rise…A story of healing, hope and promise for a broken nation
We’ve finished the trailer for our documentary, and are excited to begin sharing it. For more information on the film of how to support it, visit: www.stillwerisethemovie.com
After 14 years of a brutal civil war the West African nation of Liberia is still rebuilding, but struggling against a silent and devastating adversary: trauma. For a population of more than 4 million there is only one practicing psychiatrist and one psychiatric hospital – until now. Against extraordinary odds, a group of 21 newly certified mental health workers are setting out to heal widespread psychological trauma. Still We Rise follows these young men and women on a remarkable journey of healing, hope and promise for a broken nation.
For more information about the film or how you can get involved, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org