The student-produced documentary WAKE had its first public screening in front of a full house in Chase Auditorium on Wednesday night. The short documentary was produced by Haverford’s Interdisciplinary Documentary Media Fellows Hilary Brashear ’14, Dan Fries ’15, Gebby Keny ’14, and Sarah Moses ’16, who worked in collaboration with Artist-in-Residence Vicky Funari and Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Environmental Studies Helen White.
WAKE explores the presence of the oil industry and the role of the community in the southern Louisiana towns of Grand Isle and Lafayette. Through interviews with environmentalists, scientists, community members, and oil industry workers the film explores life in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history and the largest off-shore oil spill in America.
The documentary was filmed this summer during two trips to the south. The first trip to the Gulf of Mexico included stops in Pensacola, Fla., Gulfport, Miss., and New Orleans, La., during which Alana Thurston ’16 and Chloe Wang ’17 assisted chemical oceanographer Helen White with her research on the effects of the oil spill. The second filming trip took place mostly within Louisiana.
Focused primarily on the community, the 23-minute-long film reflects on a range of issues—land loss in Louisiana, the region’s economic dependence on the oil industry, environmental restoration and justice, and critiques of the oil industry. The shifting stories and unexpected revelations of the people interviewed in the documentary subtly illuminate the gray areas and challenge viewers’ perspectives on the oil industry. Beautifully filmed, the documentary raises complex issues: How feasible is the transformation to alternative energy resources? What are the obstacles blocking this transformation? And how do we engage with an industry that supports the livelihood of communities yet destroys the environment they live in?
The film was enthusiastically received by the audience, which erupted in applause towards the end. The screening was followed by a short discussion session that brought up questions about the editorial process, the students’ own experiences and political views, and whether the film would be submitted for any awards. Also a part of the discussion was the meaning of the film’s title. WAKE could mean several things, as one audience member pointed out. It could mean the kind of wake that takes place in the aftermath of a death, or the wake of a ship, or a wake up call to everyone. The film certainly evoked a range of emotions, and as Vicki Funari said, “[WAKE] generates dialogue and deep thinking.”
WAKE was funded by the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship (CPGC), the Koshland Integrated Natural Sciences Center (KINSC), the John B. Hurford ’60 Center for the Arts and Humanities, the Office of the Provost’s Louis Green Fund, and the Department of Instructional and Informational Technology (IITs).
—Hina Fathima ’15
Photo by William Colgin