Janice’s Review Blog

‘They Killed Sister Dorothy’ racks up awards and keeps emphasis on Sister Dorothy’s work

Posted on: March 20, 2009

On Feb. 12, 2005, murderers gunned down 73-year-old Sister Dorothy Stang in Anapu, Para, Brazil.  In an e-mail dated March 13, 2009, Director Daniel Junge recalls how he first found out about Sister Dorothy Stang and how he travelled to Brazil with David Stang, Sister Dorothy’s youngest brother, three days later to begin filming “They Killed Sister Dorothy.”

“I read about the story in the New York Times and started researching through Dorothy’s hometown newspaper in Dayton,” says Junge.  “They told me her youngest brother might be involved, and lo and behold, he lives in my home town of Denver, Colo.  I called David and he said he was going to Brazil three days later and could I get a visa that quickly?  I did.”

From there Junge made more trips to Brazil to film interviews with the men involved in Sister Dorothy’s murder, the defense attorneys and the trials.  He interviewed members of Sister Dorothy’s community the Sister of Notre Dame de Namur and the Brazilians she had worked and lived with.

Photo of Sister Dorothy at a Sept. 28, 2008 Franciscan Renewal Center Memorial Mass

Photo of Sister Dorothy at a Sept. 28, 2008 Franciscan Renewal Center Memorial Mass

The film shows a photo of the murdered Sister Dorothy.  For more than 30 years Sister Dorothy worked with the very poorest of the Brazilians to make a living on the land while preserving the rainforests.  She managed to also anger the big land owners in the process, which led to her murder.

Junge went inside the Brazilian prison to interview the three men arrested for her muder.  He interviewed the Brazilian defense attorneys, and most impressive he took his camera inside the Brazilian courtrooms and filmed the trials of the murderers.

The film won over a dozen awards, according to Junge.  “The biggest are Best Documentary and the Audience Award at the South by Southwest Film Festival and the Silver Hugo at the Chicago Film Festival,” said Junge.

The film shows the importance of the work that Sister Dorothy and her community do in Brazil, and the film keeps the emphasis on this work.

“Seriously, it’s just been great to see the kind of enthusiasm I’ve had for this project for four years shared by audiences,” says Junge.  “I’ll be very excited to see it on HBO later this month-March 25.”

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