Films: The Third Wave

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The Third Wave

The Third Wave

USA, 2008, 94 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Documentary, Nature, Social Issues
Program: Documentary Films
Language: English English Subtitles

DIRECTOR: Alison Thompson
Producer: Joe Amodei, Kym Anthony, Peter Demas, Oscar Gubernati, Morgan Spurlock, Alision Thompson
Editor: Cedar Daniels, Peter Demas
Cinematographer: Sunil Elvitigala, Marco Franzoni
Principal Cast: A. P. Darmedesa, Bruce French, Oscar Gubernati, Donny Paterson, Alison Thompson

In 2005, four volunteers from different parts of the world traveled to Sri Lanka—equipped only with their charitable natures—to try to alleviate the suffering of those devastated by the December 2004 tsunami. Joining forces, they gathered supplies and drove down the coast, helping the people they met along the way. But when they reached the village of Peraliya—where 2,500 residents were swept to their deaths by a forty-foot wave—they stopped to set up a first-aid station in a school, the only building still standing. Though all four planned to spend only a couple of weeks on their mission, they soon found themselves running both a field hospital and a refugee camp—and their brief stint evolved into a year-long struggle to bring Peraliya back to life.

Australian filmmaker Alison Thompson—herself one of the four volunteers—made The Third Wave on the spot in hopes of inspiring others to contribute their time and energy to disaster relief and other humanitarian efforts. When she and her colleagues grew too busy to work on the project, they passed the camera to locals: kids, ambulance drivers, and, ultimately, a Sri Lankan cameraman, who shot much of the 250 hours’ worth of footage from which the final cut was edited. Combining their raw material with clips from media coverage of the disaster, Thompson thus presents a primer on volunteerism that not only chronicles her team’s triumphs and travails but also shows how ordinary people can make a difference.

The Third Wave has secured support from heavy hitters in the industry, including Morgan Spurlock of Super Size Me fame—serving here as an executive producer—and Sean Penn, who presented the film in a special screening at Cannes this year. The title refers to the wave of volunteers who arrived on the scene after the first wave of the tsunami wiped out whole villages—and the second killed 250,000 people.

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