Chas Bruns, a filmmaker who splits his time between Maine and New York, has come a long way since making silly VHS home movies with his brother as a child.
His pursuit has taken him around the world to locales such as Brazil, Panama, Peru and Ecuador, through his work with MEDLIFE, an organization dedicated to bringing medicine, education and community development to impoverished areas around the world. Bruns’ experience working with MEDLIFE has also changed his perspective on life.
Bruns’ latest documentary, “New Horizons: Brazil,” follows Maine artist John Whalley and his wife, Ellen, as they travel to the New Horizons Youth Ranch, a shelter, provision and home in Goias, Brazil, that has helped more than 200 orphans since its inception in 1991. The film also takes a hard look at the lives and mistreatment of children living on the streets of Brazil.
It was Bruns’ sister, who got the wheels turning for “New Horizons: Brazil,” when she talked to John Whalley about the possibility of having Bruns film some of the work he does in Brazil. It was something that immediately piqued Whalley’s interest.
“After about six months of emails being exchanged and phone calls, finally, one day he called me and said: ‘Look, I’m going back in ten days, and you’re coming with me and we’re filming the whole thing,’” Bruns said in a recent phone interview.
When he got to Brazil, Bruns found what he calls “a slap in the face of reality.” Many children living on the streets have seen their parents murdered, or have killed people themselves. Bruns found a place where it’s not unusual for drugs, guns and prostitution to be part of a orphan’s daily life.
Bruns said that seeing the poverty in Brazil made him reassess what’s important in his own life.
“You go down there, and you see the contrast of whatever it is that they desire in life,” Bruns said. “I sound like the white guy who went down to a poor place and wants less now – but you look at it, and see they’d be happy with a pair of Nikes and a T-shirt.”
Bruns also faced challenges in being a one-man film crew for “New Horizons: Brazil,” and the hurdle of making this movie stand out in a competitive documentary climate.
“It was a struggle to think of how I was going to tell this story and get the message out,” Bruns said. “And also tell the truth and show the reality and make it interesting so not only would people watch the movie, but actually care to take action.”
Bruns hopes that “New Horizons: Brazil” leaves audiences wanting to take action, whether they donate and visit the kids at the New Horizons Youth Ranch, or help a cause close to their own heart.
“New Horizons: Brazil” premiered in at the Lincoln County Community Theater in Damiriscotta, Maine on Friday, Dec. 2. Bruns hopes to premiere the film in major markets such as New York and Los Angeles, and that it will air on MPBN and eventually be available on Netflix or Blockbuster’s streaming services. If all else fails, Bruns said he would put it out to the public free online.