Mud Pies and 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.
Viewers of Mud Pies and Kites are saying:
First, thank you for all the emails you send to keep us up to date on your ministry and work. I feel I get to travel a bit with you to all the fortunate schools and churches who host you by reading of their comments or hearing a radio interview. My awareness continues to increase thanks to the work you do. I rejoiced to know your Illinois trip was such a wonderful success for the launch of your heart-work Mud Pies and Kites.
The film is simply wonderful! It is WONDERFUL! Congratulations. It is such a journey, one I chose to make in its entirety from beginning to end. I was left bare-naked at the end and despite my copious tears, my sad emotions and my complete sense of utter emptiness, I was deeply grateful, hopeful and most especially motivated. One cannot see and hear all you are sharing and not change one’s view each day of each and every person we encounter and the myriad of sufferings right in front of us. It really begs us to awaken to our choices. Though I have not seen what you have nor can I smell what I can only imagine in your descriptions, when your images arrive into my comfortable living room I am reminded to yet again ‘change my life.’ To not indulge my passions for making sense of suffering but to allow the experience of your film to be converted to better choices in every area of my life so that we ALL may benefit. To bring my own healing presence to every person I encounter and to grow to accommodate the space needed inside for that. That each moment we respond trusting WHO we are is always enough even when we think we have nothing to give. A smile plenty. Fr. Tom’s interview is a jewel in the crown of the film and I was so appreciative of the hope demonstrated in small stories after seeing the children with special needs and the hospital with its abundant lack. The despair of the mud pies is interwoven splendidly with the beauty and hope in the kites throughout the whole film, you are an inspiring filmmaker with a great gift. Your passion for Haiti and its people is incredibly moving.
And most important, Gerry, you are in my prayers. I cannot tell you of the intention my heart sends forth that your ministry grows to touch many, many lives and awaken hearts. You inspire me personally to increase my silent time with God so that when I do serve I do not just alleviate pain but really ALLOW myself to see others in the way that transforms and creates. Each moment adding love or hate to the world and falling, letting go more and more into the trusting arms of our ever loving Creator.
THANK YOU. YOUR WORK IS SO APPRECIATED.
-Jane of New York
(a financial sponsor of this film)
The experience of watching Mud Pies and Kites is one of full immersion in unimaginable misery. It’s a journey to a place that I don’t want to know exists. It shakes up my comfortable life and challenges me to re-examine the “good Christian” life I lead. It reminds me that simply not choosing to be more informed about the devastating scope of poverty doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist and, more importantly, doesn’t excuse me from doing something about it. Looking into the eyes of the people you met, seeing the ravages of the life they are forced to lead, and then seeing their moments of joy, their hope and faith in Christ and their gritty resiliency, I am ashamed of the times I have complained about petty inconveniences. They are truly my brothers and sisters and I came to understand fully your message of compassion that calls us to companionship.
This film is more than just a documentary, it is a journey to the soul of each of us. Your beautiful reflections give me much to ponder and I know I will replay many scenes to better dwell on the profoundly spiritual coupling of images and prophetic wisdom. I am proud to have been able to contribute in a small way to this tremendously important piece of work. It inspires me and convicts me and I find that I am more eager than ever to live its message.
-Lisa of Detroit
(a financial sponsor of this film)