Mud Pies & Kites
Death and Resurrection in Haiti
Produced, written and directed by Gerard Thomas Straub
On January 12, 2010 a powerful earthquake struck Haiti, killing over 300,000 people and leaving more than a million people homeless. Haiti was a disaster before the earthquake; after it, it became an unimaginable nightmare. After nine trips to Haiti during the country’s most tumultuous year in its long tortured history, the first coming just before the earthquake and the second just days after the earthquake. I was left with countless images that are forever seared into my mind…the endless mutilated crush victims, the horrendous living conditions, the sick, dying and dead…yet, for me, all that I’ve witnessed can be best encapsulated in two simple and common objects, a mud pie and a kite, that speak plainly and clearly to both the despair and the hope I found in Haiti.
On my desk in my library I have a mud pie I brought home from Haiti. I could never imagine being so hungry and so broke that I had to resort to eating something made from mud and contaminated water, something so vile it could make me very sick or even kill me. A mud pie symbolizes, for me, the extreme poverty of so many Haitians. Mud pies are baked in ovens of anguish and hopelessness.
I’ll never forget my first visit to Cité Soleil, the worst slum in Port-au-Prince. The devastation, the tin shacks, the rotting trash, the spewing sewage, a little girl urinating in the garbage, a woman defecating in the open, naked kids with bloated bellies running barefoot through pig-infested mud and rubbish, the nauseating stench from rotting garbage…it was all too-much to take in. The nightmarish slum assaulted my senses, left me feeling helpless and emotionally wrought. And then, all of a sudden something joyful caught my eye and filled me with hope. It was a makeshift kite fashioned out of a plastic garbage bag. In a place that made no sense, a kite was something I could understand. The kids and the kites lifted my spirits. It showed me how imagination could lift the human spirit out of the muck of sadness and hopelessness. The endurance and innocence of the children countered the madness and injustice of the adults. And so mud pies and kites came to symbolize the death and resurrection that is a daily event in Haiti.
Divided into two parts, Mud Pies & Kites is about the necessity and importance of compassion. The film captures the dignity, determination and courage of the poor, and, in the midst of the extreme poverty and deprivation, celebrates the possibility of a better future through mutual cooperation and genuine compassion, which is the fullest expression of the luminous force of intentional love and kindness.
After having made 18 films on poverty around the world, I believe, Mud Pies & Kites is the most compelling film I’ve ever made, and I’m delighted that it is the first film produced by my new ministry, Pax et Bonum Communications, which serves the poor through the power of film.