Assistance mortelle (2013) Poster

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8/10
Documenting the overwhelming and the overwhelmed
xWRL4 May 2013
This film offers a closeup of the so-far failed efforts to address the aftermath of the catastrophic Haitian earthquake, which destroyed the homes of 1.5 million, about 15% of the population.

A wide variety of people are interviewed, and the interviews are telling and touching. The photography is first-rate, revealing the beauty of the landscape and the horror both of the devastation and of the largely unsuccessful attempts so far to deal with housing, even after two years.

The film offers a highly sympathetic view of the citizenry, who have suffered greatly but are getting impatient. The portrayal of the government is somewhat less sympathetic: glimpses at attempted leadership, but the basic message is that the government was overwhelmed both by the disaster and by an inability to coordinate, let alone dictate, the actions of an estimated 4,000 outside agencies providing assistance.

Least sympathetic of all, in this treatment, are those 4,000 aid agencies, which--possibly out of ineptness or self-serving motives, or possibly to sidestep reputed Haitian corruption at all levels--did not trust the government to be a full-fledged partner in the reconstruction effort.

However much you may have seen and read about the Haitian disaster and relief and reconstruction efforts, this film will show you much more, if you can bear to watch such failure and suffering.
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2/10
Fatal Assistance paints a one-sided view of development assistance
tonywohlfarth28 April 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I screened Raoul Peck's Fatal Assistance at this year's Hot Docs film festival. Peck returned to his native Haiti to film the reconstruction efforts following the 2010 earthquake. His film is a one-sided diatribe against NGO's, the International Haiti Relief Committee (IHRC), and ultimately any kind of development assistance. Its hard to pinpoint the source of Peck's anger. The narration is his, as is the voice-over by an unnamed woman who was/is an international aid leader. No doubt there were problems with coordination and effectiveness, but Peck blames all of it on the international agencies who (he suggests) have their own agenda! It is not clear why the Haitians themselves bear no responsibility? After all, it was former President Rene Preval's decision to spend relief assistance money to pay for the 2011 elections (which his party lost). Also, it was not the international NGO's who decided to relocate 250,000 homeless Haitians to a green space 11 miles outside Haiti! These are decisions Haiti will live with for decades, but as former Minister of Culture Peck knows there is another side to this story. Too bad it was not included.
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