David Gould

[ Filmmaker ] [ Lecturer ] [ Challenge taker ]

Several years ago, Chivy Sok, former deputy director of the University of Iowa’s Center for Human Rights, presented David Gould with a challenge.

Sok, a former child slave from Cambodia, wanted Gould, a lecturer and documentary filmmaker, to make a film about honor killings.

You’ve heard of being the right person for a job? While far from being the worst person for this particular job, Gould said, looking back, he might not have been the best, either.

“In hindsight, I probably could have answered some basic questions about honor crimes,” he said. “(But), I really knew nothing about it.”

Nonetheless, Gould took on the assignment and it took him on an expedition across the country and around the world. This spring, he’ll unveil his film, “Two Sides of the Moon.”
“It has been an unbelievable, almost four-year journey,” Gould said.

Unbelievable is right. From the onset, Gould said the film was “the most illogical project for me to take.” But, through a combination of fate, a lot of perseverance and a bit of luck,

Gould made it work.

Gould admits he was somewhat uncertain about the project when he took on the assignment. But, determined to honor an agreement to look into it, Gould sent letters to five international organizations that work to prevent violence against women looking for a “human story” on honor killings. A few weeks later, within the span of 90 minutes, five e-mails came in. They all contained the same name: Hatun Sürücü, a German woman of Turkish-Kurdish descent who was killed by her brother after divorcing the man she was arranged to be married to and dated a German man.

“It’s a pretty strange coincidence,” Gould said of the five messages.

The coincidences didn’t stop there and every time a roadblock came up, a solution presented itself. Gould doesn’t speak German. He later was asked by a colleague to entertain a German woman who offered to help him with the project. When he was short on money, a friend wired him $30,000 — without being asked.

Gould had to help finance the project, as well, teaching night classes to help cover costs.
Along with exploring Sürücü’s story, the film also features Gould’s interviews with the likes of the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu to offer a broader look at human rights.

“It really looks at … how we treat one another and who we can be at our best and who we can be at our darkest,” Gould said.

Though he calls the filmmaking process an “incredible struggle,” Gould said it was a story that was meant to be told.

As it turns out, he was just the right person to tell it.

— Lee Hermiston