BY: David Bauder
NEW YORK – Soledad O’Brien’s new CNN documentary unit is devoted to stories about America, but she found a more urgent tale while in Haiti to cover the aftermath of January’s devastating earthquake.
The film “Rescued,” which debuts on CNN tonight at 8 p.m. EDT, focuses on two children who stay at the Lighthouse Orphanage, which is run by American missionaries. Cendy Jeune is a 6-year-old girl abandoned by her parents when she was a baby, and Marc Kenson is a teenage boy who was sold into slavery for $12.
O’Brien and her crew discovered the orphanage shortly after the earthquake and also found a filmmaker who had been shooting footage of some of the children before the earthquake struck. It enabled the CNN crew to show the conditions children face every day along with the problems after the earthquake.
O’Brien said she hoped the story could influence how relief money being sent into the country could also be used for societal change, ending the practice of childhood slavery.
She said it’s important for news organizations not to forget Haiti.
“I understand the news cycle goes past these stories and people move on,” she said. “Other stories become headlines. But Haiti’s recovery is going to take years and even decades, and I just think we have to be patient and continually revisit it.”
Her unit has a handful of other projects in the works.
“Gary and Tony Have a Baby,” which airs in June, is about two men who go through the surrogacy process to have a baby, even though the surrogate believes her family and friends don’t like giving a baby to gay men. Another project focuses on a New Orleans neighborhood and discusses why so many middle-class blacks have not moved back following Hurricane Katrina; another is on the impact of the church in black culture.
After CNN took her off the network’s morning show, O’Brien admitted she had doubts when network President Jonathan Klein suggested she work on documentaries.
But the ‘Black in America’ series proved to be a success critically and commercially for CNN, and O’Brien has found the work rewarding.
“It’s really interesting,” she said. “It’s much different and much more challenging than the work I was doing before. I liked the other show, but at the end of the day when a documentary airs you think, ‘Wow, I just did a movie on something that’s really important.”
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