Give a Damn? Kicking A** and Taking Names

Rob here,

So it's been awhile since I've posted so I figured I'd write an update. So much has happened in the last two months and we are all excited with the film's progress. We are proud to announce that we won "Best Documentary Feature" at the Stella Artois Cinema STL Filmmakers Showcase, due largely to the enthusiasm of the fans that attended our sold out festival WIP(Work in Progress) debut.

The production of Give a Damn? over the last four years has been a roller coaster of accomplishment and disappointment which has tested our resolve on multiple occasions to complete the film that we set out to make.  There was a period of 3-4 months that I completely withdrew from the project due to frustration and the financial opportunity cost that were a byproduct of chasing our dream.  After watching the film with 440 people and receiving a standing ovation, I was overcome by a feeling of much needed closure and excitement. For the first time in many years I felt that sacrifice and struggle were finally overshadowed by success of the film. Dan and I were in attendance for this showing, however David was unable to attend because he was in Malawi working on his non-profit  "When The Saints".

Although Dan and I very much enjoyed the screening, it did not feel complete with David not in attendance.  Soon after the Tivoli screening, David returned to the country and now it is amazing to have had the full team present for the most recent screenings of the film.  Although we are all very different, we are starting to merge very well as a presentation team and the Q and A section of the film has been very strong because of that.

After years of begging the public to take notice, people are starting to pay attention and interest in the film seems to be exploding.  Although the film has not had it's official red carpet premiere, we are currently touring the WIP cut around the STL area at college and high school campus's.  The first two screenings at Washington University and Florissant Valley Community College were very well received and we are excited for the handful of dates that we have lined up in the next month or so. 

The other big news that I have is that we were excepted into Heartland International Film Festival as well as the St. Louis International Film Festival, taking place in October and November respectively.  Both are major film festivals (St. Louis is an Oscar qualifier) and needless to say we are extremely excited to be a part of these festivals.

continue reading

Gypsies and Refugees in Serbia

In Venice, we had a decision to make, we could either stay there for three days and then hop on a ferry to Greece or we could go our original route through Eastern Europe (the more expensive of the two.) Rob wanted to stay in Venice and David wanted to head through Eastern Europe. I was the tie-breaker. We had only one connection on that entire route through Eastern Europe and it was Veda, a friend of friend in Serbia. I said a little prayer that God would provide a worthwhile opportunity to justify the extra money and the Eastern European route, and then we set off.

Veda is our age.  She is an architecture grad student, and someone who I quickly learned had thoughts of helping the world but was afraid to. She said she had the fear that she would get so attached to whatever cause she took up that she would never be able to give up, and would get completely burned out in the process.  I understood her hesitations completely.

In Serbia, when you think of the poor, you think of the gypsies that are always begging on the streets in Eastern Europe. When we told her about our documentary and how we wanted to film stuff having to do with poverty, the first people who came to her mind were the gypsies. The second thing that came to her mind was how she didn't trust them and thought most of them were criminals and thieves. She pretty much refused to take us to one of their villages.

Over the next two days, Veda saw how persistent we were to go to one of these villages. She started making calls to friends who had done some work with the gypsies. She got word of a village near the market that we had already planned on visiting, but she assured us, "If I feel the least bit uncomfortable, we are leaving!" So that next day we went to the town market and saw Gypsy people selling all kinds of stuff they had found in the trash. I bought a little stuffed monkey for 15 cents because David insisted I needed a mascot for my backpack. The market was filled with dirty little puppies being sold by dirty looking people, but all of us knew we needed something a little more intense.

After leaving the market, Veda couldn't get a hold of her friend who knew about the village and was forced to go ask some police officers if they knew where it was. When she went to talk to the police officers, they basically ignored her.  Another man randomly walking by overheard her and said that he knew the President/Chief of that Village and he suggested we just walk in and ask for him.

When we approached the village in Veda's car, it was clear that this was not a village, but a full out slum. Both Rob and Veda were very nervous, I was a little nervous, and David not really at all. (That's usually how it breaks down in every situation.) We creeped into the slum and people were definitely staring us down. We approached the center of the village, asked for the President, and were taken to his makeshift house. He was ecstatic that we had come and gave us an interview for about 45 minutes. Then he escorted us all around the village: took us into dusty homes, had little kids breakdance for us.  He also showed us the school he was building, his little dinky radio station, and TV studio. We got unlimited access into this village.  The whole time Veda was surprised at how well she was translating and got more and more comfortable as the day went on. It became not about just being a good host to her poverty craving, American filmmakers, but it was becoming her own cause.

Towards the end of our time, the people made us coffee and we chatted about poverty and America.  Then we watched footage from their village beauty pagaent. One man from the village came by and was so excited that we had come because we cared about the poor. It was so backwards, we felt like we should have been the thankful ones for them letting us into their lives, but it was the other way around. They just wanted to know that they were not "forgotten."

As we left the slum that day, I asked Veda what was going on in her head because I saw her mind racing.  It was the same look that I had after visiting Africa for the first. She hadn't even know these people existed in her small city. (Quick note: The people we met were actually not gypsies. For the most part, they were a different people group called the Ashkali.  They had fled Albania after having their homes burned, suffering from genocidal attacks by the Serbian government under Milosevic.) So many of her predjudices disappeared during those last few hours, and she was asking herself how she could get involved in that slum. She started recalling the dreams she had been too afraid pursue just days earlier. Her passion was to build sustainable homes for the poor using her skills as an architect.

As she described these new developments in her heart and mind on our drive back to her house, David and I looked at each other and we both had the same looks on our face.  "This is what Give A Damn? and Speak Up International are all about...connecting those who need something to live for with those who just need something to live!"   "Give A Damn?" is a humorous, adventurous, and compelling documentarythat will inspire and lead young people to get involved in themovements to end extreme poverty and fight injustice.

continue reading
Syndicate content

Bloggers in Parris

Sign-up for the Newsletter
Sign-up for the Newsletter
Get the latest updates on relevant news topics, engaging blogs and new site features. We're not annoying about it, so don't worry.