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Dana Nachman & Don Hardy: Love Hate Love

Is it possible to turn tragedy into hope? These directors document some victims of terrorism who've done just that. At TFF, Sean Penn will be on hand for a Tribeca Talks discussion.

Love Hate Love


Love Hate Love is the story of three families who have taken their experiences with terrorism and found a way to not only move forward, but to make the world a better place. After Steve and Liz Alderman lost their 25-year-old son Peter in the World Trade Center, they took the money they were awarded as compensation and started a series of mental health clinics in Uganda, for those who have been victims of war crimes, child soldier enlistment, and more. After Esther Hyman lost her sister Miriam in the mass transit attacks in London on 7/7/05, she founded an eye care clinic in India in her sister’s name. And Australian Ben Tullipan lost his legs and suffered from massive burns in a bombing in Bali in 2002, after which he made a remarkable recovery. Now Ben works with others who have lost limbs, helping them to realize that they can do more than survive—they can live their lives in much the same way as before.


Journalist/filmmakers Don Hardy and Dana Nachman talked with Tribeca about what inspired them to make this inspirational documentary.


Tribeca: How do you describe Love Hate Love in your own words?


Dana Nachman: Love Hate Love is about three families, all victims of terror attacks, who have come through their tragedies and are trying to make the world a better place.


Tribeca: What inspired you to tell this story?


Don Hardy: Dana and I have been working together for almost a decade now. We were both TV journalists for the NBC affiliate in San Francisco, and we started working on a project in 2002 focusing on the Bay Area people who lost someone in the 9/11 attacks. The hour-long TV documentary aired locally on the one-year anniversary of 9/11.


A few of the people we met became friends of ours, and we stayed in touch over the years. One of them had lost his pregnant wife on United flight 93, and he was instrumental in this project. This film is dedicated to Jack Grandcolas’ wife Lauren and another United flight 93 victim, Andy Garcia. Their heroism and Jack’s friendship are the driving force behind this project.


The idea for Love Hate Love came to us about 6 years ago when we were flying to a shoot in Nebraska for our film Witch Hunt, and we were both flipping through magazines—Newsweek and Time—that were reporting on all the bickering over monuments being built in New York City and Shanksville, PA. We noticed no one was reporting about the really positive things that came out of that day—the relationships that have grown out of something so bad, and all the ripples that spread from those positive connections.


Dana Nachman: Our relationships with these people got us thinking about the relationships that develop when something really bad happens—that concept of good coming from bad. When you are a journalist, you cover stories about people who have had bad things happen to them, and we wouldn’t have known these people unless people in their lives had died.



Tribeca: How did you find your subjects?


Dana Nachman: It was pretty hard, actually, to find them. We had this puzzle we wanted to create: people who had gone through tragedy, had risen up above it, and were trying to make the world a better place. We wanted three stories—big, medium, and small.


We started calling victims’ groups, and we finally found the Aldermans, who were already doing amazing things. When we met them, they were such a force of nature, there was no question they were going to be a major focus of our film.


Don Hardy: But we were concerned that people would not see mental health care as the most important thing—aren’t mosquito nets and clean drinking water more of a need? The Aldermans totally put that to rest by saying, “If you don’t get the mind right, none of the other stuff matters. You won’t be able to take the AIDS drugs, walk the extra mile to get water, get an education.” My fears were allayed immediately. What they are doing is such a global thing they had to be a part of it. And they are also really good people to hang out with.


Dana Nachman: Then I called a bunch of victim groups in London, but they were not responsive. My uncle posted a message on a message board, and Esther got back to me and said they might be a good fit. For the first few months, they were nervous about being the subject of a documentary, about working with American filmmakers, about how Miriam’s legacy would be portrayed—they were skittish beyond belief—but ultimately, they agreed to do it. After a lot of earning of trust, they really embraced it. And they just saw the film and really loved it.


The Hymans are more conservative than the Aldermans, who want to get their message out there any way they can. They are not picky—they think the more people talk about Peter, the better.


Don Hardy: So we had a big story in the Aldermans, with their numerous clinics, and a story not as big in scale (one facility), and then we wanted one that was really personal, someone working one-on-one. We looked at Russia, Spain—unfortunately, there are a lot of places where terrorist attacks have happened to choose from. I found Bali, where hundreds of Australians had died, and I thought that’s interesting: a tourist spot, etc. I looked into sites that listed all who died, and it’s actually really hard to find a list; I don’t know why.


[I finally] found Ben, who was the most severely injured person who survived the attack in 2002. I emailed him, and within a couple of hours, my phone rang. He was outgoing and gregarious, and we hit it off right away. He said, “Too easy,” which is his thing. “Swing by!” I told Dana, I think I found the guy, but it’s a little different than we’d been thinking—he isn’t a family member doing something in remembrance of someone who died. But we felt right away he embodies everything we all aspire to be: he’s humble, he’s selfless, and he does so much without asking for anything in return.



Tribeca: Over how long a period did you shoot?


Dana Nachman: Good question! We started in December 2008, when the Aldermans visited us in California. We then went around the world in ten days in March of 2009; traveled to Uganda in July 2009; and went to London in December 2009. We had our final shoot with Liz in March 2010, and Don went to Bali just about a year ago.


Don Hardy: That was a fun trip. I went to Australia first, and hung out with Ben and his family, and then went back to Bali, to see how close he really was to this humongous car bomb. We visited monuments, and documented how Ben reacted to this whole visit.


Tribeca: The Tribeca Film Festival was founded in response to the attacks of September 11. With the 10th anniversary of that event looming, what do you want audiences to take away from Love Hate Love?


Dana Nachman: The strength of these people. I think we all like to think we’d have the strength to—you never get over it, or really move on—but to find love again. These people are extraordinary in that way. If we could all do a little of that, and not wait until we are faced with such an unthinkable tragedy, then maybe these kinds of terrorist attacks wouldn’t happen with such a big magnitude. I think of it as a little kum-ba-yah moment.


Don Hardy: There’s a hope in these people you wouldn’t expect. It’s still a struggle, but they’ve found the only way to heal is to do something for others.


Dana Nachman: The healing nature is a huge point of this kind of work.


Tribeca: What’s the biggest thing you learned while making Love Hate Love?


Don Hardy: It’s hard to get a steady shot when you are barreling down a dirt road in Uganda at 90 mph!


Seriously, spending time with these people made me think about how I can put my skills to use to do what I can. I don’t have millions of dollars to spend, but I can give some time, and I can use my skills as a filmmaker. I’ve worked with some local charities; I’ve done some volunteer work in Haiti. I think that’s what I’ve taken away from it: Just do what you can do.


Dana Nachman: I think that knowing them makes you want to be a better person. It sounds a little cliché, but Kerrie (Ben’s wife) has a great part in the film where she says, “He makes everything he does look easy.” He doesn’t bitch about having no legs, and yet we all complain about far less. They have taught me to look at life in a different way, and to put things in perspective. I am generally a positive person, but these people help to underscore that for me.


Tribeca: What's your advice for aspiring filmmakers?


Dana Nachman: There are so many people out there who try to quash your dreams of doing films, and you should never let that happen. If you have a story you want to tell, tell it. Don’t take no for an answer. It’s such a gratifying career to have.


Don Hardy: The tools are there. For Dana and me, it was this idea that came out of our experiences as journalists—we knew how to tell stories with pictures. We had a really steep learning curve, but we had each other, and we had close friends who shared a vision for what we were trying to do. We just did it. People wait for money to magically appear, and that kills projects before they even get out of the gate. Borrow or rent a camera, and just go out there and make it.


Love Hate Love


Tribeca: What are your hopes for Love Hate Love at Tribeca?


Dana Nachman: We always wanted to premiere the film in NYC, so this is amazing. We just hope we fill the theater, and it gets bought so that millions of people will see it and get inspiration from all the people in the movie.


Don Hardy: It was such a leap of faith when they let us tell their stories. We can’t wait to bring all of them to NYC to a nice theater, to share their stories and hopefully have a great discussion afterwards—with our executive producer Sean Penn—about the nature of making films that matter. It’s going to be amazing when the lights fall the first time, to see what we’ve been living with for years and in a small editing bay—to see if it’s working with an audience.


Tribeca: So everyone is coming?


Dana Nachman: Yes, if we can afford it.


Tribeca: How did you get involved with Sean Penn?


Don Hardy: We met Sean a few years ago, when he was gracious enough to narrate and executive produce our film Witch Hunt. When we came up with this idea, we talked to him, and he said, “If you need a narrator on this one, let me know.” We thought—that was easy! We didn’t end up using narration, but he wanted to executive produce the film to open some doors, and he helped us get others to collaborate on the film. We showed him the first 40 minutes, right after the earthquake in Haiti—where he created an NGO (J/P HRO) that is doing amazing stuff—and he gave us some advice, and we went back to the drawing board a bit.


He’s a terrific mentor, and we feel so fortunate to know him, and to be able to bounce ideas off of him. He’s one of the most talented filmmakers out there.


Tribeca: If you could have dinner with any filmmaker (alive or dead), who would it be?


Don Hardy: Would it be smart to say Robert De Niro? I think number 1 on my list would be Stanley Kubrick. He never took the easy way out in any of his movies, including lighting an entire movie by candlelight to be in period (Barry Lyndon). He was a visionary, and I don’t think there will ever be another one like him.


Dana Nachman: I would like to have dinner with Alex Gibney. I really just like his style of filmmaking, the accessibility of his films—I want to be like him.


Tribeca: What piece of art (book/film/music/tv show/what-have-you) are you currently recommending to your friends most often?


Dana Nachman: I am the worst person on pop culture on the planet, because every reference goes over my head. I am a die-hard New York Times reader, but I have 3 kids ages 5 and under (including a 10-month-old), so I am watching and reading nothing, aside from children’s books. So my recommendation is Monkey with a Tool Belt. [laughs] My brain is mush, and between making Love Hate Love and our next movie, that’s all I can do.


Don Hardy: One book we were both recommending for a long time was Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell—we both connected with it, and we wondered: Is there any way we could make a doc about it? It’s a fascinating book.


Tribeca: What would your biopic be called?


Dana Nachman: We should do each other’s!


Don Hardy: Okay: Scattered: The Dana Nachman Story.


Dana Nachman: That’s funny, because for me I would say Baligan, which loosely translates to craziness.


And now for Don: Drive. It’s not perfect, but you’ve always been very driven to make docs.


Tribeca: Finally, what makes Love Hate Love a Tribeca must-see?


Don Hardy: We set out to make a documentary that’s a little different from a lot of the ones you see, one where you will come out inspired and hopeful. That’s not always the case—some lead you to believe the world is a hopeless place, there’s no point, why even try? This movie aims to do the opposite—we want you to leave empowered to think about what you can do to nudge the world in the right direction.


Love Hate Love screens at Tribeca on Tuesday, April 26, at 5:30 pm.


Following the screening will be a Tribeca Talks: After the Movie conversation with executive producer Sean Penn, directors Dana Nachman and Don Hardy, and family members featured in the film: Liz Alderman, Steve Alderman, Esther Hyman, and Ben Tullipan. The panel will discuss the importance of making movies that lead to social action.



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