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Extreme Documentaries
By Debra Kaufman


In More Detail

Maryann DeLeo brought her Sony BVP 300 Betacam SP as well as a new Sony PD-150. Though she shot most of the documentary in Beta SP, when it came time to shoot several heart surgeries she relied on the PD-150 to enable her to hold the camera lengthwise over the surgical bed, perched on a rickety stool, for long periods of time. Everything was shot with available light.

Held Hostage in Columbia
Filmmakers Karin Hayes and Victoria Bruce courted danger to make Held Hostage in Columbia, about three Americans who have been held hostage in the jungle for a year (www.heldhostageincolumbia.com). The movie’s genesis came in June 2003 when Columbian journalist Jorque Enrique Botero gave them a call asking them to record a video message from one of the kidnapped Americans’ mothers. They did, and sent it to him via the Internet. They later discovered he had taken the video message to the hostages, deep in rebel-controlled jungle, where he taped a two-and-a-half-hour interview with the American hostages. “Columbia is one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist,” says Botero. “In the last 25 months, 30 journalists have been assassinated, and dozens have had to abandon their workplace, threatened by death. In the territories dominated by the guerrillas, there always exists the risk of aerial bombings or combats with the military.”



Hostages watch video messages from home in Held Hostage In Columbia.
Traveling alone into the jungle in extreme conditions, Botero had only a few hours to gain the confidence of the captured Americans and only six hours to be with them. That didn’t end the challenges. When Hayes and Bruce got back to the U.S. with the footage, they tried to show the “proof of life” to the hostages’ families — and ended up confronting the FBI and U.S. State Department. “Their first reaction was very antagonistic,” remembers Hayes. “Our main concern was that we didn’t want the information we had to put these guys’ lives — or Jorge’s life — in jeopardy.” Since then, some of the footage has been aired as part of a report on CBS’s 60 Minutes II and on The History Channel.

Chernobyl Hearts
Downtown TV Documentaries’ Maryann DeLeo was so moved by a UN photo display of the human aftermath of Chernobyl that she decided to make a documentary on it, accompanying the charity, Chernobyl Childrens Project, and an Irish television crew to visit the site. “I wasn’t thinking about the danger,” says DeLeo. “I was just thinking that this is part of the story you have to tell.” Focusing on getting the shots she needed, DeLeo eventually took off her protective gloves and mask. Later, at the Minsk Radiation Institute, she was diagnosed with radiation poisoning, which was treated. “I wasn’t too happy about it,” she admits. “I just hope for the best.” But despite the extreme hazards that DeLeo endured to make Chernobyl Hearts, she has a perspective that is echoed by all the documentarians who risk everything to bring such vital stories to life.

“The people left behind are the ones who are truly brave,” she say. “You, the documentary filmmaker, are choosing to put yourself in that situation for a limited time. You can walk away — and they can’t. It’s hard to know that you can’t bring them all with you.”

Source: Film & Video

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