“Trial by Fire: Lives Re-forged”

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By Lindsey McCarthy

Staff Reporter

  On Feb. 21, the School of Communication and Media Arts (SCMA) partnered with Vision Project to present Megan Smith Harris’s Academy Award qualifying film, “Trial by Fire: Lives Re-forged.”

   The screening displayed the stories of burn survivors and how they reclaimed their lives, followed by a panel discussing the film and its meaning.

   Vision Project, a non-profit organization that began in 2004, works towards producing material to educate and bring awareness to various social issues through documentary photography, investigative journalism, as well as video and multimedia.

   The President of Vision Project and Coordinator of Multimedia Journalism, Professor Richard Falco, expressed why he helped build this company.

   “What I have realized is the business of news was changing drastically,” said Falco. “I saw it going in the wrong direction, so I made the decision to create an organization that would be a non-profit, where we could create the content that I thought was important, then publish or promote them.”

   Vision Project has chosen to focus on three main topics over the next few years: healthcare, hunger or food, as well as the environment and energy.

   “They’re the major issues of our time,” said Falco. “Sources of information are quickly fading into this polarization, I think we consider ourselves to be content providers.”

   “Trials by Fire: Lives Re-forged”follows the stories of seven different burn survivors and how they overcame the accidents they went through.

   “We try to do things that will have a real impact on the world, that we’ve done some good for the world,” said Bill Harris, executive producer of the film.

   The variations of each person’s story demonstrated the journey they had to go through to get to where they are today.

“[After interviewing hundreds of burn survivors, we] recognized each person’s strength of character,” said Harris. “They showed to us you can overcome almost anything.”

   One of the seven stories in the film was of a young boy named Connor who tried to start a fire in his family’s fire pit. The fire imploded and engulfed him, burning over 90% of his body.

   He was placed into a medically-induced coma for over three months. Once he awakened, he slowly began to strengthen and heal to the point of having his life back.

   Like the others who are featured in the film, Connor showed he is more than just his scars, inspiring many of those who have watched the film.

   “The untold stories of these survivors is something you don’t think about,” said graduate student Genesis Aquino. “You don’t realize how in-depth their stories are.”

   After the screening, Harris was joined by a panel of Sacred Heart faculty and spoke about what they thought and answered questions from the audience.

   The panel consisted of Falco, Associate Professor of Social Work Bronwyn Cross-Denny, Associate Professor of Theology and Religious Studies Dr. June-Ann Greeley, and Interim Executive Director of the Office of Global Affairs Christina Gunther.

   Each professor provided insight that specifically related to his or her field, which implemented a thorough discussion between the panel and the audience.

   “It is truly inspirational,” said Greeley. “People who overcame or are overcoming unimaginable odds are living lives of hope and new-found meaning.”

   Some audience members felt connected to the survivors’ stories.

   “We respond to the things people shouldn’t have to see, but like those survivors, we live with what happened too,” said Assistant Chief of the Fairfield Fire Department Schuyler Sherwood.

   Vision Project’s next film screening will be about dogs assisting those with autism, and is said to be released in April for National Autism Awareness Month.

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