The Frajil Movie Project: Dan Ramirez, Amara Untermeyer Talk Haitian Prisons
Several years ago, a Haitian teen by the name of Frajil was arrested. Shortly after, the 19-year-old was tried for the murder of a disappeared man and sentenced to life in prison. There was reportedly no evidence or witnesses corroborating the officers' charges, but Frajil was charged anyway. He didn't have a lawyer and was not allowed to speak at trial.
Dan Ramirez, a Brooklyn-based director, heard of Frajil in 2009, while working on another human rights project in Haiti. Since then, he and producer Amara Untermeyer have been trying to tell Frajil's story in hopes of bringing attention to the country's prison system -- and getting Frajil clemency.
With the help of the now 26-year-old's lawyers, they are forging ahead with a Kickstarter-funded narrative film detailing Frajil's last 48 hours before jail.
The team leaves for Haiti on Aug. 6 to shoot the project.
Said Ramirez: "The beginning was tough, because I was completely all alone. I had a job working for an advocacy firm, but I just didn't have the time. I was helping a few friends with another project, but the situation on the ground didn't let anyone give me a hand."
"So when Amara and I launched our media company, she was immediately wanting to do something, saying: 'Let's think of a way to help him out.' She's been the flame to keep the project going because I don't have the energy to do it alone anymore."
Untermeyer said that another concern with the project is that they wanted to find exactly the right staff, and make sure to use Haitian actors and filmmakers.
The team is also working on a viral music video to coincide with the project.
"We really area trying to make it an entertaining film," Ramirez said. "What did happen in those 48 hours is like an action film."
Right now, the team has reached some $8,100 of their $85,000 fundraising goal and has 8 days left to collect donations.
However, Ramirez remains undaunted.
"We'll do it with our iPhones if we have to," he said. "We can't imagine spending our days in a cell that's 20-by-20, with 65 other men crammed in there. There's a really big pretrial detention problem, and we're trying to spread that message."
Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.