During her week-long excursion to Guatemala, Zulena Segarra-Berrios returned with more than just photographs of her trip.
The second-year Master of Fine Arts student came back with footage for a documentary to complete an enrichment project offered to first-year students in the School of Communication’s graduate film program. The trip allows students to practice nonfiction filmmaking and gain a global perspective.
The trip takes place annually during the university’s spring break. Ed Talavera, the film program’s director, leads the trip and organizes the group’s itinerary.
This year’s students will be departing Saturday and will be living in a hotel in San Pedro, a town near the primary destination Lake Atitlan.
Students are only required to cover personal expenses; the program covers accomodations and transportation.
Talavera began taking first-year film students three years ago. Before Guatemala, most students have not visited a third-world country, he said.
“Everyone comes back with an eye-opening experience,” Talavera said. “It’s not a touristy thing.
The students in the class are required to film a documentary about a social issue. Unlike previous years, the Center for Disease Control is partnering with the University of Miami in Guatemala.
Two projects will then focus on HIV prevention and the dangerous practice of using cook stoves that use wood or charcoal inside homes. The smoke from the cook stoves is a carcinogen.
The other two groups will capture the experience of a free health clinic called a “hospitalito,” (Spanish for small hospital), and the experience of coffee farmers in the area.
First-year film student Ronnie Khalil is working on the “hospitalito” project. He is looking forward to seeing Guatemala for the first time.
“Seeing a new world through the lens of a camera should be very eye-opening,” he said.
Khalil has traveled extensively in the past, referring to himself as one of the more “seasoned” film students. He will work as the film’s producer and director.
Segarra-Berrios’s project was less centered on health.
Her documentary explored the maltreatment of horses that are a typical tourist attraction in Guatemala. The film profiled an American woman’s nonprofit organization that raises awareness about horses in the area.