Haitian film students record earthquake

Valuable footage will show how it happened.

by Jennie Kermode

When the earth began to shake in Haiti on 12 January, students in the island nation's Cine Institute did what everyone else did and got out fast - but not before grabbing their cameras. Now the footage they recorded could help investigators to determine how the quake developed, how buildings fell and where they should prioritise in the effort to recover bodies. It can also help outsiders to understand what happened from a Haitian point of view.

Where the Cine Institute, Haiti's only film school, once stood, there is now only rubble. The town of Jacmel is about 25 miles from the capital Port-au-Prince and closer to the epicentre of the quake. Like many smaller towns, it has been slow to receive aid. Yet Cine Institute students have not only managed to keep filming, they've managed to get their work out of the country, via visiting journalists and the internet, providing high quality documentation of the crisis as it happens.

No foreign film crew has the ability to capture Haiti's moment of crisis like this - the fact that these students themselves lots friends and sometimes their whole families gives their work a whole different level of authenticity. Yet they are not just focusing on the disaster itself - they have been active in recording the organisation of local people, contesting the notion that society has broken down, and they are anxious to let the world know where supplies are not getting through and where politics is getting in the way of action. This is the sort of work that reminds us all what filmmaking is for - the importance of recording events as they happen and letting people tell their own stories.

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