Exciting news for documentary fans, a new film is about to hit your screens! The documentary, titled How (Not) to Build a School in Haiti, explores development, history, and colonialism colliding when a simple project to build a school in Haiti spirals out of control, which eventually forces the filmmakers to question their complicity with NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations). Directed by Chicago-based, award-winning filmmaker Jack C. Newell, the film promises to take viewers on a journey through building schools in developing economies.
Newell started this project in 2011. “What inspired me to make the film is something that I explore in the film – that it seemed like building a school in Haiti would have a measurable impact and it felt like it was a pretty straightforward story to tell about how people can help other people… a simple story that took 10 years to make,” he shared.
Here is a preview of the documentary, and you can now click here to watch the full film on Hipstr…
Through his filmmaking journey, Newell shared that the heart of creating a good documentary is to “entertain us AND make us think.” And that’s exactly what he did in this decade-long project.
One of the standout features of the documentary is that it delves into the challenges faced by those who simply want to help because they think they have all the answers.
“I want people to take away that it’s all just really complicated – there’s a part in the film where we even explore the problems with using the very word ‘HELP’… So, it’s complicated,” Jack shared, “There’s a saying in the international aid space that I am going to butcher, that someone from America or a Western democracy can come to a place like Haiti and write a whole book about how to fix Haiti after a day, and then once they’ve been there for a week they could write a chapter, and after a year they can’t write anything at all – meaning that when you’re on the outside looking in, the answers seem so clear, but once you’ve been there, it’s clear why things haven’t been ‘fixed,’ because it’s just complicated.”
Newell has a proven track record of producing high-quality documentaries. His previous films, including 42 Grams, which was on Netflix and have been widely praised for their insightful storytelling and stunning visuals. In total, he’s directed about seven feature films and two documentaries, one of which hasn’t been released.
How (Not) to Build a School in Haiti is being distributed by Cow Lamp Films and premieres today, March 1st, on Hipstr TV, click here to watch the full documentary, free of charge. You can also watch Newell’s other documentaries and films 42 Grams, Open Tables, and more.
Newell has more projects in the works. We’ll update with further coverage.
Amanda Elliott covers the TV and Film scene for Screen Magazine. She works alongside independent filmmakers as the Marketing Director for Questar Entertainment and Cow Lamp Films, a film and TV production and distribution company, and its applications and FAST channels, GoTraveler, Hipstr and FamilyTime.
Check back here at SCREEN for the latest in Chicago and Midwest documentary film production. You can also click right here to subscribe to our weekly email newsletter.