Real life trauma told by student documentary

February 15th, 2007

Blood, guts and tears. All of these words can be used to describe what John Carroll University junior Robert Duns saw when filming his documentary, “Trauma.” The half-hour film follows kids into the Huron Road Hospital as they are brought in for gun shot wounds and other inflictions caused by gang life.

Duns was first approached to tackle the project of filming and editing this documentary by Lisa Lewis, media service coordinator for the John Carroll Communications and Theatre Department. The director of the Youth Prevention program, Michelle Reali, wanted a way to show gang members how their lives could end up one day if they didn’t change. Reali contacted Lewis because her father is a John Carroll alum.


Duns just happened to be in the office the day this assignment came to John Carroll and he was eager to participate. His experience as a news anchor for JCU-TV on segments such as “Market Rep” and interviews, prepared him for the film-making experience. He mentioned one of his favorite interviews on JCU TV was with Dan O’Malley, Allison Kern and Pat Kelly for elections last year.
Duns not only had the experience but also an emotional tie. His experience as a victim of a car accident made him want to protect other kids from seeing the things that he had been forced to see.
This documentary was his first attempt at film-making and he got help from the John Carroll TV station.

Duns filmed the movie while Reali interviewed different victims of gang violence. In describing the victim of a drive-by shooting, Duns said “He just laid there with his gut wide open. Shooting this was spooky and unreal.”

There is also an interview with a grandmother who breaks into tears when talking about her grandson who was a victim of gang violence. “Her grandson has a lot to overcome before he can even get back to where he started,” said Duns. Another interview is with a mother of two kids who were both shot on the street. “It took a lot to see a grandmother and mother breakdown in tears,” said Duns.

Duns described the experience of being behind the camera as all of these interviews unraveled. “You can’t see the tears in their eyes and you can’t smell their flesh when it is cut in the E.R. It is an uneasy feeling especially when they have to operate.”

Duns did most of the filming for it in the Huron Road Hospital. He would go into the E.R. at 9 p.m. until 2 a.m. and wait for trauma to come to him.

The film is not directed towards the suburban population. Duns said he focused on what would affect kids from 10 to 17 years old. This film-, which will be shown to John Carroll students February 19 at 6 p.m. in the Donahue Auditorium, will actually affect kids who are involved in gangs.

First-time offenders, who are usually around the age of eight, are prosecuted and then court ordered to go to the Huron Road Hospital to watch this movie.

“Hopefully they will see the movie and realize that could be them if they don’t change their minds,” said Duns.

Most major cities have slide shows to send a message but this is the first documentary used to educate gang members who have been punished. “If it changes one kids mind then all of the hours were worth it,” said Duns, who spent some of his summer working on the documentary.

Everything in the film is exactly how it happened. The only thing Duns had to change were their faces, which he blurred. Duns said he is now thinking of doing a documentary on the homeless situation in Cleveland.

Duns hopes that John Carroll students realize that this is going on right in their own backyard.

“We are used to seeing movies with blood and guts and we become immune to it. This is real blood and real intestines. The only closer you can get to it is being there,” said Duns.