Student ‘rebuilds hope’ with film

Caroline Dzeba

During her senior year of high school, Weinberg sophomore Sarah Freeman received an unexpected opportunity to work as a producer of a documentary about the Sudanese civil war

Now, two years later, the film is set to debut in Chicago.

After Freeman met director Jen Marlowe at a screening of her documentary “Darfur Diaries” in her hometown, she received a job offer to work on Marlowe’s next documentary, “Rebuilding Hope.” The documentary traces the journey of three “lost boys” of the Sudanese civil war who return to the villages they left as refugees in 2001.

Freeman began her involvement with the documentary in 2007.

“I had just contacted (Marlowe) hoping she would come speak at my high school,” she said. “I really don’t do documentary filmmaking – I kind of got into it by accident.”

Freeman, an International Studies and Sociology major, started a Darfur coalition at her high school and is also a member of Northwestern’s Student Anti-Genocide Coalition. She focuses on Africa as her International Studies concentration, takes Swahili classes and also plans to study abroad in Rwanda and Uganda next year.

Freeman said she was surprised to be hired as a student producer.

“(Marlowe) sent me 10 hours of footage, and I was responsible for watching it on my computer and transcribing the dialogue,” she said.

Along with another student producer, Freeman also helped Marlowe organize the content of the documentary. Marlowe said the student producers gave her feedback on what they thought was powerful and important to the film.

“Rebuilding Hope” is Marlowe’s second documentary. In 2004 she traveled to Chad and Darfur to document the genocide, entering rebel-controlled territory to gather footage of the atrocities. “Darfur Diaries” is still shown at many film festivals and universities.

Her new documentary will premiere at Chicago’s Portage Theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave., on Nov. 20, and the filmmakers plan to present a screening at NU in February.

Freeman said she learned a lot from working on the documentary and highlighted the effectiveness of film as a tool for raising awareness.

“I think video captures an audience’s attention in one of the most effective ways,” she said. “It’s important to remind people to use film media to convey the cause you’re supporting.”

Marlowe agreed that film can provide a powerful message.

“There is very little and very poor mainstream media really anywhere in Africa,” Marlowe said. “So most of what we get that is of substance and of value is done independently.”

Unlike many NU students who work on film projects, Freeman is not a Radio-Television-Film major. However, she said filmmaking involved a set of interdisciplinary skills that were not specific to film theory.

“(Knowing how to use film) is definitely important, especially with activist work and social development,” she said.

Communication senior and RTVF major Rob Runyeon said Freeman’s work is a “win” for NU.

“Film is an area in which it is good to know some film theory, but you need other skills as well,” he said.

Students like Runyeon in the RTVF program also have opportunities to work with professional filmmakers in a variety of settings.

“Northwestern does a great job of introducing us to important players (in the film industry), but it’s entirely up to us to capitalize on that,” he said. “It’s sort of like leading a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”

Marlowe said she was impressed by Freeman’s dedication to the project.

“My sense was that it was really the subject matter that interested her,” Marlowe said. “I think she knew that film can be used as a very important tool of activism.”[email protected]