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Send in the Clowns

2014
Distributed by Documentary Educational Resources, 101 Morse Street, Watertown, MA 02472; 617-926-0491

Directed by Sam Lee
DVD, color, 82 min. English, French and Creole with English subtitles
High School - General Adult
Acting, Activism, Disaster Relief, Global Issues, Humor, Poverty


Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

Recommended   
 
Date Entered: 11/30/2016

Despite a name that invites levity Clowns Without Borders (CWB) is a legitimate international non-profit agency whose mission is to build resiliency through laughter. The 300+ network of professional performers regularly travel to orphanages, hospitals, schools, conflict zones, refugee camps, and crisis areas around the world. Past projects have taken small teams of clowns to South America, Africa, India, and Asia. Unlike many other charities and humanitarian relief organizations that appear to funnel a large percentage of funds into administrative costs, the clowns who perform and conduct workshops are unpaid volunteers.

Fascinated by the idea that Clown Aid might have value to those who have nothing, the filmmaker follows two CWB troupes in Haiti, both before and after the massive 2010 earthquake that devastated a country already traumatized by 30 years of natural disasters, corruption, and neglect. The idealistic performers recognize that their efforts do not provide the basic needs of food, shelter, water, or clothing. They clearly understand that what they do isnít much, but Ė unlike other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that pop up in any trendy disaster area and leave with to no visible effect Ė itís something. Interviews with performers, Haitians, and NGO evaluators demonstrate the ineffectiveness of the entire aid industry. Instead of a critique of CWB, the film asks viewers to consider more closely the humanitarian model and how little relief occurs.