Early one Wednesday morning, after dropping my daughters off at school and before 1 Million Cups, I was visiting with Sterling (Day #106). “You should play catch with this guy,” Sterling said as he shook my hand. “He makes movies.” Sterling then introduced me to Andy.
I’ve tipped my hat to Andy and held the briefest of polite conversations with him when our paths crossed at Mudhouse Coffee. He often sits close to the door and quietly reads to himself while sipping his coffee. I hate to disrupt anyone when they are reading.
Andy did all of his schooling in Wilmington, Delaware and was the catcher on his little league team.
“I only threw out one baserunner, but had plenty of opportunities to throw off the mask and catch foul balls.”
He has cheered for the Wilmington Blue Rocks, the Advanced-A team of the Royals, even though they came to town long after he was gone. From 1984 – 2004, Andy lived in Kansas City where he earned his Masters and Ph.D. from UMKC.
“First day of working as a grad student teacher, I was blown away at how awesome it was to be in a classroom and work with students. I was teaching composition, helping freshman understand themselves as writers. My job was to encourage them and show them that they could write. I knew then I wanted to get my Ph.D. and teach at the collegiate level. And I’m definitely a Royals fan. Brett, White, and Gary Gaetti — he’s about my age.”
For the last 14 years, Andy has been a professor of Media and Journalism at Missouri State University. He’s also an award-winning documentary filmmaker. We met at Fassnight Field and started tossing a ball as the dogs barked and the crows cawed and a car alarm blared. I told him my one documentary story of being in First Boys of Spring, wearing a wool uniform and playing third base with an old glove and the broken camera shot that ends the movie. Playing catch at Fassnight with the old Wilson on this fall morning felt much like that spring morning in Little Rock.
And then I learned about Andy’s movies. His first documentary was Downtown: A New American Dream.
“It’s about millennials and baby boomers who are changing their lifestyles and moving back to urban areas. It took 26 months to make, but I can say I’ve made a feature length documentary —76 minutes long.”
He started his own non-profit production company, Carbon Trace Productions, so he could keep telling stories and making documentaries of all lengths.
“Carbon Trace used to be my bicycle blog back in the day,” he laughed.
His documentaries have tackled weighty subjects such as heroin addiction and poverty in Springfield. It is impossible, however, to exaggerate the importance of Andy’s most recent project.
In a partnership with the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) and another MSU professor, Dr. Blackmon, Andy has been working on the story of two doctors who treat Syrian refugees — Dr. Tarif Bakdash, a pediatric neurologist, and psychologist Dr. Khalid Hamza.
“Dr. Hamza’s coined a new term. ‘Human Devastation Syndrome.’ It’s exponentially worse than PTSD. It describes those who have suffered trauma upon trauma, horror upon horror, on an hourly basis. Millions of Syrian children are having their lives completely torn apart by war, and this is the same generation that’s going to have to rebuild Syria. So the documentary is about the mental health crisis of Syrian children who survive this war.”
For one week, Andy and friends filmed in the refugee camps in Jordan.
“The clinic at Mafraq was our first experience with a refugee clinic, just a makeshift downtown abandoned building turned into a clinic for the sake of the SAMS doctors. By American standards, it was shockingly dirty, shockingly chaotic. When I looked around the room just packed with women and children I immediately wondered, ‘What the hell am I doing here?’ And then we started filming.”
It is often referred to as the largest humanitarian crises since the end of World War II.** A civil-cold-holy war that has lasted 7 years with no end in sight sending millions of refugees fleeing their native country for their lives, often heading to Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey.
Andy needs to go back to finish his story.
“What is happening in Syria has to stop. It is a hideous human rights crises. These refugee camps are absolutely wretched. For the story that needs to be told, unfortunately, we need to show what is taking place with the families and children in those camps.”
Dr. Bakdash said, “God forbid this should happen to anyone else’s kids.”
“The only way I can think of from preventing it happening to other kids is to show the horror of it on the screen,” Andy said.
To take a full film crew back for two to three weeks and get the remaining footage will cost about $25,000.
So, Royals friends and catch-playing friends, I ask that you would help spread the word of Andy’s project. Maybe we can be the benchwarmers and role players he needs to help bring this story to light.
Donations are accepted here.
Syrian population: 22 million
Syrians needing humanitarian assistance: 13.5 million
Syrian refugees displaced within Syria: 6 million
Syrian refuges displaced outside Syria: 5 million
73 percent of the refugees are women and children
33 percent are children younger than 12