Alumna Produces PBS Documentary

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Jessie Beauchaine (98) served as the associate producer for the documentary "I Came to Testify," part of the PBS series "Women, War & Peace." She started by researching, trying to “determine whether or not there was a story in Bosnia.” It quickly became clear that the information she was gathering was not just interesting, but deeply impactful. 

"I Came to Testify," narrated by Matt Damon, tells the story of the story of how rape and sexual enslavement was used as a weapon of war in Bosnia. Ultimately, the film became the story of a handful of women who testified at the International Criminal Tribunal in The Netherlands. Because of their testimonies, wartime rape and sexual enslavement were deemed crimes against humanity for the first time in history. This established a standard for how sex crimes would be prosecuted in future conflicts.

“I talked to all sorts of people – NGO administrators working with women victims of war, prosecutors at the Yugoslav Tribunal in The Netherlands, journalists who'd covered the war in Bosnia and the break-up of Yugoslavia, and in particular, anyone who had worked with or reported on the use of mass rape during the war and the women who'd survived it,” said Beauchaine.

Beauchaine calls her journey to documentary filmmaking “circuitous.” She graduated from PLNU with a B.A. in history. She began researching documentary filmmaking graduate programs after graduation, but shied away out of fear of inexperience. She went on to obtain a master’s degree in Christian ethics from Fuller Theological Seminary. It was there that she developed an interest in social justice work, but took a job as a writing and critical thinking instructor at Soka University in Orange County, Calif, an experience she says “gave me time to reflect on where I wanted to go next.” After five years there, she was accepted into Columbia University’s School of Journalism. She graduated with a print journalism degree and after freelancing in a bottomed out economy, she took an internship with "Women, War & Peace."

“The series involved history, social justice, obviously journalism – everything I wanted in a career. So I threw myself into it and was ultimately promoted twice over the almost two years I was there,” said Beauchaine.

Her seemingly meandering journey has led her to a place that has combined all of her experience and passion into the perfect mix.

“Until recently, I looked at my history degree, seminary training, scads of internships, five years of teaching – as false starts,” said Beauchaine. “And now I marvel at the fact that I ended up more or less where I'd wanted to be in the first place, only now I'm better prepared to assume the responsibility of telling what I think are important stories, and it's exactly because of those other paths I've taken. For the first time in my life, I'm deeply grateful for the learning experiences that have come to me throughout my different attempts at finding myself and my purpose.”

Watch Episode 1: "I Came to Testify" on the PBS website