Lucy Lawless World Vision - 5 Days in Bangladesh


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World Vision - Lucy Lawless
Five Days In Bangladesh

Review of the Documentary
by Carolyn S

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Lucy Lawless: Five Days in Bangladesh: NZ TV 2: 31 January 2006

I watched this documentary last night.  I learnt a few things; about the nature of poverty in Bangladesh, about the survival of the human spirit in dire circumstances, and about how World Vision works.  It was moving and thought provoking. It set me thinking about some of the contradictions we all live with.  I'm not surprised that Lucy responded to the cumulative affect of her Bangladesh and Hurricane Katrina experiences, with a bit of soul searching and sense of the lack of importance of her career.  It raised some similar questions for me too.

The focus of the documentary was on Lucy's journey because this is how World
Vision aims to capture the attention and compassion of potential donors in the wealthy, celebrity-loving Western World.  It also focused on three children, because they are the poster children of the World Vision campaign, even though its really communities that are the target of the sponsorships. This was made clear when Lucy asked a World Vision guy about their campaigns.

I was curious about who had made the doco and who had planned out the events
to be filmed and interviews - as is usually done with such productions. Whatever plan Lucy had, she still seemed to be fairly spontaneous in the questions she asked.  This became clear when she had a discussion with her interpreter (David) about what would be the most suitable and sensitive kind of questions for her to ask.  Lucy did the voice over narration and described her interpreter as looking quite a lot like Omar Shariff.

Lucy provided a human connection to the people we see and hear.  This was
especially so when it came to other senses such as those of the smell of curry that hit her immediately after she left Daka airport.  It was during her arrival at the airport that I got the first twinge of something that would come to bother me a little later in the documentary.  This had to do with the focus of the documentary being on a wealthy celebrity, when the central issue is that of poverty and thwarted hopes and ambitions.  Here Lucy quipped that the lines of curious onlookers who watched her departing from the airport were her fans. Well I guess it was a joke because Lucy had just said she was a curiosity, and out of place and that no one knew who she
was.  The onlookers were also quite passively bemused rather than avid looking fans.  But I wondered about Lucy drawing attention to her star profile.

The real problem came for me when someone asked what was special about New
Zealand. Lucy quipped, "Me."  Of all the things she could have said this seemed to me inappropriately focusing on her star status considering the circumstances. But it's also this star status that World Vision wants to use as a vehicle through which to reach viewers compassion.  And Lucy is ideal for this because her emotions are so close to the surface.

This was evident in the encounter with Bina and her family.  Bina was frail and undernourished and she had a little severely disabled brother who Lucy held on her lap for a time.  She wanted to ask Bina's mother how long the boy was likely to live, but David suggested and asked an alternative question. As he took over the interview, Lucy turned her head away from the camera (the boy no longer on her lap).  She let her hair drop over her face, but the camera sought it out to show she was weeping. Looking uncomfortable Lucy got up and walked away from the camera.  Fairly soon after the camera followed her to get her explanation amidst her sobs.  Lucy said that the little boy was older than her son, but weighed far less - he was almost no weight at all.  And she said that he smelled really badly because his deformed hand was rotting.  And to make it worse, she said he was sucking the rotting hand and it was seeping some fluid that dropped onto her dress - not that she was worried about her dress. I guess Lucy's response was similar to what many other people's might have been.  She also helped the cause by explaining the debilitating effects of poverty and how it destroys people's lives.

She was uncomfortable when Bina's family said they had a gift for her. "They
have something for me?"  Bina brought her a big colourful bunch of hand-picked flowers. Lucy asked which was her favourite and Bina picked out a yellow one, which she put behind Lucy's ear.  Bina's family also had saved up a week's hard-earned wages to provide a meal for LL.  We saw her watching them prepare the meal but didn't watch her eating.  I must admit I was reminded of the eating scene in XWP season 6 "Legacy" which I watched a couple of days ago.  The one where Xena tells Gab not to refuse anything the desert people offer them because it would be impolite.

The documentary was structured to leave us with a feel good message about the value of sponsoring children.  We began with the worst cases, and gradually worked towards the ones that were stories of hope.  We saw the success of the boy L had sponsored, Banik.  He was healthy & looking forward to going to university. His favourite leisure pursuits are football and cricket.  Lucy joined in a game of soccer with him and some guys - LL in bare feet. She also struggled with her inappropriate skirt to show him how to ride the bike she gave him.

Lastly we see Fatema, the child LL will sponsor in the future.  She's definitely cute, and provides a picture of hope and possibility that will make for good posters and TV promos.  But, considering everything in the documentary, I'm more concerned about the future of Bina and her family.

Clearly Lucy and/or someone involved in making the documentary had some unease about Lucy's comment about being the special thing in NZ. Lucy referred to it in the final comments she made in the programme. She said she was "stumped" whenever anyone asked what was special about New Zealand.  She didn't know how she could tell them about the abundance of our lives.  She was afraid that what she said would hurt them or distance them from her. "Maybe it was just ignorance or arrogance on my part.  But in that fraction of a second I shied away from the truth as I said it."

I can't help but feel a little uneasiness about the juxtaposition of the rich and the poor in this documentary.  Nevertheless World Vision is very successful at using the tools of our celebrity and market driven culture to do something for those who are its casualties.  And Lucy has a good manner with children and the compassion that reaches the compassion of viewers. However, for me this is the uncomfortable contradiction.  20 plus years after Live Aid, poverty is still rife in Africa.  I know that while the successes are small, they are to be celebrated. Every child saved from life of deprivation is something positive.  But it seems that during times of relative wealth in the West, the gap between rich and poor has increased. It seems to me there's something wrong with a world in which luxuries come so easily to many of us, while being so hard to come by for others. It's important to think about what we can give to help those in need today.  But maybe it's more important to think about what we need to give up so that the world is a fairer place for the majority of people in the world tomorrow.

Videos created by MaryD - All the videos on this page can be viewed using Quicktime These video clips comprise the entire documentary

Lucy Travels to Bangladesh
Clip #1


Lucy goes to the train station with the kids that made it their 'home'. She meets Serjan who works in the brick works and also studies
Clip #2

Lucy goes back to see Serjan after he comes home from school and the brickworks. She then meets Bina's family who are not in the World Vision program. Please be aware that this clip can be very distressing. - Clip #3
Lucy finds out more about Bina's family and she is presented with a basket of flowers and the family spends a week's earnings to provide Lucy a meal. Lucy also meets Even who is her sponsered child  Clip #4
Even is a healthy bright young man who is off to University. Lucy plays soccer and bids farewell to Even who she has sponsered since 1995.  She also meets her newest sponsored child, Fatima (a real cutie). Clip #5