When it was time to view the documentary Dreaming Nicaragua for class, I was skeptical of any media. There is no such thing as unbiased media, film, television, or otherwise. Documentaries are no exception, and while I previously thought of them as objective sources of knowledge, I was now ready to filter out whatever propaganda was blended into this film. A title like Dreaming Nicaragua sounded like something a guilt-tripping American would pour money into production to ask for donations. Let’s say I was very skeptical.
The beginning of the movie begins with an introduction by the Fabretto Foundation. I found this to be odd since documentaries are usually not explicit with their plea. But I soon learned that the Fabretto Foundation has been dedicated to helping the poverty-stricken of Nicaragua for decades. Initially started by an Italian missionary over sixty years ago, the Fabretto Foundation helps struggling communities through education and building community support. This film was produced largely by the Foundation to show the world the hardships of Nicaraguans, so my expectation of a bias was correct. However, even in this introduction I could tell that this film was different.
The film follows with four vignettes of Nicaraguan children, all in conditions of poverty but in very different situations. The documentary captures their daily struggles, their thoughts on their position, and their goals and dreams for the future. The film is different because the film is honest. It acknowledges why the film was produced, but its greater purpose is to humanize the poor of Nicaragua. Over the course of an hour, we learn about the lives of these four children, empathize with their joy and suffering, and are filled with hope and sadness with the film’s brief one-year follow-up on their situations.
Despite my initial skepticism, I really enjoyed this film. I believe this speaks to the method of the film – that the film sought to honestly depict the lives of people rather than exploit its audience with pleas for help and dramatic stills. There is a lot of media about ‘third-world’ countries in Central America, Africa, or Southeast Asia, and many of these sources write a single story of people in need, of pity, and of suffering. This is dangerous because it contributes to a false superiority by ‘developed countries’ and unsustainable donations. But this film and others like it help to dispel these myths and show humanity, values, and hope – three components to build genuine connection and long-term support.