When Olivia Wilde comes into the studio, and sits down, her light-green cat’s eyes settle on you with a steady gaze and a mix of curiosity, intelligence, and sensuality. When she speaks about the people of Haiti, her face flushes with tenderness. Her voice is low, measured, and always just a moment away from a throaty laugh. She goes to Haiti often, despite its current cholera epidemic, and is planning another trip shortly after our talk.
Olivia’s career is in a thrilling “Wilde brush fire” phase. After roles on The O.C. and The Black Donellys, she was chosen to play the character nicknamed “13” on HOUSE, opposite Hugh Laurie, starred in Cowboys & Aliens with Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, TRON: Legacy with Jeff Bridges and Michael Sheen, and currently has six films in post-production. Wilde truly loves Haiti, believes in the cause she speaks for and lends her whole self, not just, as many celebrities do, her name. Her beauty is complete, both inner and outer.
Olivia has teamed up with friends and fellow visionaries David Darg and Bryn Mooser to produce their film, Baseball in the Time of Cholera. What started out as a film about Haiti’s first little league team, a small and personal story, soon took on international importance as a cholera epidemic quickly infected over 500,000 Haitian people.
And the story became even larger. At first it was uncertain what was causing the deadly and quickly spreading illness — Haiti had never before suffered from cholera — but it soon came to light that the Nepalese troops with the UN peacekeeping force had allegedly been dumping their sewage into the largest river in Haiti.
The irony is starkly painful: the UN has a budget of $800 million to help keep peace in a country that hasn’t seen a war in over 50 years, but it is widely believed that as a direct result of the UN’s actions, thousands of innocent civilians are now dying from a cholera outbreak.
The film begins on an intimate level, showing us Haiti’s first little league team. We see the excitement of the boys, the happiness on their beautiful faces, and a genuine love of the game, just like little boys all over the world. But before long, the innocence of a child’s love of sports is interrupted by the only outbreak of cholera Haiti has ever seen. And very quickly, it is rampant and dire. The victims are living by a huge river, but none of it is safe to ingest, and these people are literally dying of thirst. It is tragically reminiscent of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner: “Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink.”
When the film begins, we meet our 14 year-old baseball team pitcher Joseph, who says proudly, “I love my life,” a statement he’s so passionate about that he has actually written it on his wall. Surprising news, given that he’s taking us on a tour of the tent he lives in with 11 other people, with a single cement latrine, ever since the earthquake. Joseph is happily displaying for us why his life is beautiful, and the reason is that he still has the people he loves most around him: his parents, and sisters, Cindy and Lovely.
Eventually there comes a moment in the film where we see that Joseph’s face has changed entirely. His mother has died violently, and in a matter of days, of cholera. And, immediately, we know two things: the first is that even though he’s only 14, he’s no longer a boy; his childhood has ended abruptly and forever. And the second thing we know is that he may never write down the phrase “I love my life” again. Or at least not for very long time. It’s absolutely devastating.
As Joseph, who is technically still a child, (his favorite object is a little baseball statuette from Toronto) talks about how much he knows his mother loved him, and how hard she worked making jewelry to keep their family afloat, his grief overtakes him. And even though he’s trying so bravely to hold them back, he gives in to hardened sobs, right there in front of the camera. It’s impossible to watch, and not sit there and cry with him.
There is an enormous lawsuit led by human rights lawyer Mario Joseph against the UN for their alleged responsibility in the cholera outbreak for hundreds of thousands of Haitian victims. But how do you make reparations to the dead?