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Hand Held

Hand Held Background and Synopsis

On Christmas Eve 1989, the phone rang at Mike Carrollʼs house. Mike was a renowned photojournalist. His work appeared in Rolling Stone, People and The New York Times. The caller asked Mike to travel to Romania to document the fall of the communist regime and the assassination of Romanian despot Nicolae Ceausescu. To top it off, he wanted Mike to leave that night.Mike packed his gear and headed for Romania -- a place he couldn't find on a map just 24 hours earlier. When he arrived, he walked into one of the most appalling scenes of the 20th century -- orphanages packed with the dead and dying victims of a pediatric AIDS crisis. His incredible photographs and heart-wrenching stories of the plight of 400,000 Romanian children ran in The Boston Globe and The New York Times and opened the eyes of the western world to this horrific secret. Carroll was nominated for a Pulitzer prize.

Deeply shaken by his experience, Carroll compulsively returned to Romania with suitcases full of clothes and medication. That single day, that hideous experience in the orphanages and morgues of post-communist Romania, set Carroll on a twenty-year odyssey to bring help to a population of children in need, in a country that he hardly knew.

The sensational stories of the Dickensian orphanages of Bucharest have faded from the news. The gold rush to adopt those stricken children once dominated the headlines is now distant history, but still, Carroll and his small band of disciples labor in obscurity to bring social change to Romaniaʼs youth.

Inside the home of a rural Romanian family from the documentary film Hand Held, directed by Don Hahn. Photo Credit: Michael Carroll

Featuring the stunning work of photojournalist Mike Carroll, Hand Held is the new documentary directed by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Don Hahn. Hahn is best known for his films Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. Hahn and Carroll, who had met years earlier, had lunch one day in 2007 to catch up. At the
end of the meal, Mike casually mentioned that he was flying to Romania the following week. He recounted to Don the incredible story of his initial trip to Romania and his subsequent visits. Within 24 hours, Don called Mike back. He was taken with Mike's story and was committed to producing a documentary about this extraordinary odyssey. Filming began in the winter of 2007 in Boston. For the next two years, filming continued in Bucharest, Los Angeles, New York and Transylvania. As the story unfolded in front of the cameras, it became clear that this was more than a film about a photographer; it was a movie about social consciousness in America, and how one guy with a camera met thousands of abandoned children in a far off land and changed each other's lives forever.

For more information about the film, view the production notes for "Hand Held" (PDF).