Monday, February 14, 2011

Spotlight on: “Hand Held”

Mike Carroll (right) and friend.

If you don’t cry at some point during this film, check your pulse. You may be dead.

“Hand Held” is the new documentary directed by two-time Boulder International Film Festival guest Don Hahn, the Oscar-winning producer of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” who brought us the wonderful documentary “Waking Sleeping Beauty” last year.

His offering this year is entirely different – probing and lacerating, asking hard-hitting questions about political decisions that impact innocent lives, and even the nature of do-gooding itself.

The work centers on Mike Carroll, a photojournalist who uncovered the nightmare of government orphanages in Romania after the downfall of dictator Ceausescu in 1989. Here, underfed, un-cared for and AIDS-infected children languished, victimized by the whims of a leader who demanded record amounts of reproduction from his people while keeping them in abject poverty.

Carroll’s eyes become ours, as he walks us through his increasing involvement in a mission to save these kids.

What’s most intriguing about the film is the fact Carroll does question his motives, especially as his personal life starts to fall apart as a result of his commitment to the cause. Hahn has the good sense and commitment to truth to keep this footage in the film – as aspect of social action not often brought up or considered in film.

Too, Carroll wonders about the exploitative nature of using photos – and by extension, the film he’s in – to arouse sympathy and gather support for Romania’s unfortunate. Does the act of witnessing reduce the complex human beings in the viewfinder to stereotypes of need? What gets lost in the process? “Hand Held” looks bravely at the cost on both sides of the camera.

We are very fortunate to host, not only director Hahn, but Mike Carroll as well at this screening. After the film, we’ll sit down with them to discuss this remarkable project.

Hand Held


Dir: Don Hahn

Feature Documentary


85 min.

Presented at the First United Methodist Church

Saturday, Feb. 19, 7:15 p.m.

Co-presented by Romanian Children’s Relief ( and the Boulder County AIDS Project (

Introduction by Jenny Borys, Boulder County AIDS Project

Post-screening interview and Q & A conducted by Brad Weismann, BIFF Social Media Director



  1. What is the location of the First United Methodist Church where the doc will be presented?

  2. 1421 Spruce St., right around the corner and across from the Boulder Theater!