18th November, 8.00pm: Film Screening of Raoul Peck’s Fatal Assistance, with discussion led by Dr Anthony Carrigan and Kasia Mika (University of Leeds). Part of the Leeds International Film Festival (LIFF28)

Raoul Peck’s documentary Fatal Assistance charts the deeply flawed process of post-earthquake reconstruction in Haiti over a two-year period following the disaster. The result is not only a damning indictment of global aid dynamics, but also a sophisticated example of how to use documentary form to shed light on the preconditions for meaningful alternatives.

Unprecedented in its impact and scale, the 12 January 2010 Haitian earthquake was not an isolated event. In fact, the earthquake in February 2010 in Chile was of a much larger magnitude yet hardly caused any damage. All ‘natural’ disasters have their pre- and post-history. The Haiti earthquake was underpinned by long-term economic, political, and ecological exploitation beginning with slave plantations in the colonial period. These complex processes contributed to the scale of devastation and loss.

Following first media broadcasts and reports from Port-au-Prince, the international community was quick to respond with generous pledges and financial assurances. Approximately $4,000 million was promised to Haiti. Foreign aid workers, charities and celebrities all joined in to help Haiti. Raoul Peck’s Fatal Assistance (Assistance mortelle, 2013) looks at these often contradictory efforts of the international community to rebuild the country and examines their real impact. When the documentary was released three years after the earthquake, thousands were still living in tent camps and only a fraction of the promised sum went to those directly affected by the disaster.

As we are approaching the fifth anniversary of the event, the same burning questions remain: Where has the money gone? What happened to all the pledges? Why are the victims not benefitting from aid? What can we do change this?