After its catastrophic 2010 earthquake, Haiti was overrun by both official and unregistered NGOs. Lior Etziony and Michal Hanuka’s documentary Call for Help trains its eye on one of the latter: Global DIRT (Global Disaster Immediate Response Team), a makeshift outfit established by former Marine Adam Marlatt.
The filmmakers chart Adam and his motley crew’s unsanctioned efforts in the country, showing us how they offer medical care via refurbished ambulances and acquire supplies from corrupt airport officials.
Yet there’s no coherent sense of DIRT’s short- or long-term goals, which makes the film as amorphous as its individual subjects sometimes seem aimless. Call for Help‘s real focus is on Adam and fellow American aid workers Lauren, Rob, Luke, and Stacy, all of whom reveal themselves — in interviews from Haiti in 2010, and back home in 2012 — to be thrill-seeking misfits who traveled to Haiti not only out of the goodness of their hearts but also from a desire to flee screwy personal situations they simply couldn’t handle.
Etziony and Hanuka’s on-the-fly footage suggests that DIRT’s desire to help in Haiti was noble, but that its success in making a difference was minimal at best — thus leaving the film feeling primarily like a critical snapshot of how dysfunctional Western humanitarians often use overseas crises for their own ends.