While filming a documentary about first responders the tragic 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti, and suddenly this 3D film became a reality disaster movie as the emergency response was caught on film.
Stephen Low was in the middle of filming “Rescue 3D,” an IMAX 3D film about first responders, when a natural disaster of epic proportions occurred that helped him illustrate his point better than he could have imagined.
When a magnitude 7.0 earthquake ripped apart Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, the world descended upon the tiny Caribbean nation, including the four central characters in Low’s film: Peter Crain, the captain of a Canadian Navy destroyer (HMCS Athabaskan); Captain Lauren Ross, pilot of a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster II; Steven Heicklen a concrete contractor and volunteer fireman; and Major Matt Jonkey, a Chinook (CH-47) helicopter pilot from the Nevada Army National Guard.
What transpires on Haiti is awe-inspiring, but it’s all the more compelling and dramatic on the IMAX screen. Some films use 3D just for 3D’s sake. “Rescue 3D” takes viewers inside the cockpit with Ross or Jonkey for a ride that’s surely the next best thing to being there.
Special screenings of “Rescue 3D” are ongoing at the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. through Monday.
Low, whose crew received special permission to film the rescue operations in Haiti, is used to tackling outsized projects. His cameras have tracked world-class surfers (“The Ultimate Wave Tahiti”), been inside an Indy car (“Super Speedway”) and gone to the depths of the Atlantic Ocean to film the wreck of the Titanic (“Titanica”). But Haiti was on a different level than any of those projects.
“It’s impossible not to feel the pain of all those with whom we came into contact,” Low said. “Our team couldn’t avoid becoming personally involved with many of the people we were filming. We did what we could, both from helping to communicate the plight of those affected by the earthquake, as well as providing financial support where possible.”
Documentary filmmakers have to be quick on their feet, as the path of their subject inevitably takes twists and turns that weren’t anticipated before the project began. “Rescue 3D” started out as a tribute to first responders, and Ross chose some interesting people to follow.
Ross isn’t quite 30, but she’s already flown more than 700 combat hours and and won four Air Medals, along with Iraq and Afghanistan Campaign Medals.
Heicklen became a first responder after floods submerged his hometown of Medford Lakes, N.J. He’s now a FEMA-certified Emergency Manager, a member of the USAR search and rescue team, a firefighter and an emergency medical technician.
The four characters all had their parts to play in Haiti. Heicklen was disaster coordinator for a team of doctors and nurses that flew into Haiti and took over a hospital, performed hundreds of surgeries and treated thousands of patients.
Ross and her humongous C-17 Globemaster II flew tons of equipment and supplies into Haiti and also transported injured Haitians to the U.S.
Even before the earthquake, Low felt compelled to tell the story of first responders who willingly risk their own lives to help others in need.
“I am concerned that the people who stand ready to assist others in the time of need are not fully recognized for that effort,” Low said. “I wanted to tell their story of preparedness, training and waiting for the alarm bell to ring—then Haiti unleashed its misery on the impoverished Caribbean peoples and our story took on a different significance.
“The audience will see training made real, commitments made genuine and the use of sophisticated equipment—provided by governments and NGOs that are supported by the tax dollars of those in the audience—to lessen the crisis. From a social perspective, Rescue may turn out to be my most important IMAX-format film yet.”
The Tennessee Aquarium is paying tribute to the Chattanooga area’s own first responders who helped in the aftermath of the tornadoes that struck in April by offering a half-price discount for everyone with a military (current or retired), police, fire or Red Cross ID.
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