JP resident makes documentary on torture survivors

January 31, 2014
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Ben Achtenberg, a longtime Jamaica Plain resident, has created a documentary on survivors of torture and the care they receive in the United States.

“Refuge: Caring for Survivors of Torture” was filmed in several locations throughout the country, including in Boston, Minneapolis and Atlanta, and shows interviews with torture survivors as well as their caregivers.

“Survivors are everywhere among us,” said Achtenberg in a Gazette interview.

He said he has been a filmmaker for many years, covering subjects relating to health care, mental health and disabilities. Achtenberg said he has also always been interested in people or states that operate with impunity, from schoolyard bullies to powerful countries.

“The documentary puts the two pieces together,” he said.

Achtenberg, who is the founder of the film distributing company Fun Light Productions, said he began brainstorming about the documentary seven years ago and has been spent the last five years producing it.

Achtenberg said that he hopes viewers of the documentary realize the resilience of the survivors who make it to this country and that they “have something in them in terms of personal character.” Most of the survivors are from countries in Africa or South America.

One survivor interviewed in the documentary is a woman from Guatemala who was violently arrested in 1990 and taken to a secret location where she was beaten and interrogated about the opposition movement in the country.

“These are people of substantial strength,” he said.

Achtenberg said the documentary is not a theatrical film, but rather is meant to be educational. He said he is targeting the film for colleges and medical schools and not for television. Achtenberg said he wants potential caregivers of torture victims to watch the film.

For more information, visit refugemediaproject.org.

Ben Achtenberg. (Courtesy Photo)

Ben Achtenberg. (Courtesy Photo)

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