A Dangerous Occupation

Not too long ago, no one could understand why B.M. Carlos Mavroleon ’82 was in Afghanistan, even though he was risking his life to report on a situation that desperately needed international attention. He died there, presumably assassinated, trying to get an interview with Osama Bin Laden two years ago. Recent events have only vindicated his motivations, his concerns about developments he gave his life trying to affect.

Mavroleon is one of the journalists interviewed in Dying to Tell the Story, a documentary exploring what compels war-zone journalists—licensed idiots, as one reporter describes himself and colleagues—to risk their lives for the sake of a few pictures. Mavroleon was one of two journalists featured who were killed in action after the film’s completion, but its main protagonist is Dan Eldon, who was stoned to death by a violent Somali mob in 1992. He was 22. The portrait is wrenchingly intimate—the film’s host is Eldon’s sister, Amy Eldon, and its producer is his mother, Kathy Eldon, who is also an international journalist.

Eldon’s avenging trio (his sister, mother and father, Mike Eldon) held a screening of the film and a discussion about his legacy in light of recent events on Oct. 12 at Fisher College in Boston. The event was part of a Fisher College Honors Colloquium, “In the Extreme: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Grave Human Rights Violations.” The audience was still audibly shaken by the hard-hitting film they had just watched, but Eldon’s family did not wait. They immediately pushed ahead to put the film in the context of U.S. military action.

Kathy Eldon pointed directly to the parallels between their experience of mourning and the experience of the United States. “Angry negative energy can eat you alive,” she said. “What I think is exciting in America, though, is that we, as a global tribe, can use those feelings to transform this world. I don’t mean we don’t want justice, but this is such a wake-up call. Let us not have what happened be in vain. We have to use the inspiration of this film.”

In the film, Amy Eldon says that this is her way of dealing with her grief, which had left her with large questions as to Dan Eldon’s motivation and what his death meant in the larger scheme of things. The documentary started off as a paper for one of Amy Eldon’s college classes. She wrote a treatment for a film that would explore what led her brother to feel so passionate about work under horrible and extremely dangerous conditions. “It got a B+,” she noted wryly. The actual film has received better success, premiering on the TBS Superstation a month ago. Dan Eldon’s life may soon be the basis for a feature film.


Dying to Tell the Story casts Amy and Kathy Eldon as modern-day Cassandras. The film shows the enormity of the task of pushing horrific events past public apathy and into a public consciousness. Journalists tried in vain to raise concern about Afghanistan and the Taliban. “I’ve gone back to Afghanistan every year, but have been totally unsuccessful in achieving a result,” said Mavroleon in a chillingly portentous segment of the film.

The work of journalists in the war zones, however, has had concrete and positive effects in the past. Christiane Amanpour, chief international correspondent for CNN, appears in the film to describe the impact her work has on people back home. Of Yugoslavia, she said she found a situation in which, “Fifty years after World War II, all our governments said ‘never again,’ but it was happening again.” When, as a result of persistent coverage of the wars atrocities, the West intervened, “it took two weeks for the allies to stop the war.”

In the presentation, Amy Eldon said that the “silver lining to Sept. 11” is that “we can no longer afford to be so introspective as a nation.” She commented that, before these events, Americans tended to “care much less about what was happening in Uzbekistan than about the latest dieting plan. But people are risking their lives on a daily basis to bring us the news, the least we can do is read it.”


produced by

Kathy Eldon