Faculty's Project Sparks Conversation

Hartman's documentary debuted in August

By: Becky St. Clair

Hartman (center) spent two and a half weeks filming in Suriname.

In February 2008, Jerry Hartman, instructor in communications at WWU, spent two and a half weeks in Suriname, formerly known as Dutch Guyana, located on the northeast coast of South America.  His goal was to film the interior peoples of Suriname, all telling their stories. 

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Hartman was in the process of working on his Master of Fine Arts in digital cinema through National University, and agreed to do the documentary as his thesis project.<//font>



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“The focus that came from the communities there was mostly basic human rights,” says Hartman.  “They need access to clean water, land, education, and health care.”

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Gold mining is causing major water quality problems such as mercury, cyanide, and siltation, and land is being taken away from the indigenous people in order to be mined for gold and other minerals, as well as for ecotourism.

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One of the local communities collected hair samples that were tested for mercury.  None were within normal range, with 75 percent of the community in the high-risk category for major health issues.  Both Venezuela and Cuba have offered to send medical teams into the community, but so far the Suriname government will not grant them visas.

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In August, Hartman’s thesis film, “Indigenous Suriname,” had its TV debut.  The 25-minute documentary was broadcast in Suriname for International Day of the World’s Indigenous People.<//font>



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“I’m thrilled that this documentary was broadcast,” says Hartman. “I hope that it can spark some positive change for these indigenous people.  It's their film and their story.”

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Following the broadcast of Hartman’s documentary, the Organization of Indigenous Suriname put out several press articles.  The issues presented in the documentary and the articles have caused some serious discussion in the Suriname government. 

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“The economic and social conditions in Suriname are complicated, and we don’t know what the outcome will be,” says Machelle Hartman, associate producer and audio director for the documentary project.  “However, we trust that with more awareness, there can be hope for the people of Suriname’s interior.”<//font>

 

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