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By Doug Brunell | December 10, 2011

No good deed goes unpunished. That’s what came to mind part of the way through this documentary about volunteers who go to Sri Lanka to help with the 2004 tsunami disaster. Good intentions, no matter how pure, sometimes meet their match when up against greed and mistrust.

When the footage of the tsunamis that hit Sri Lanka made their rounds in the mainstream media, people around the world decided to head there to lend what aid they could. Alison Thompson and Oscar Gubernati were two of these people, and they quickly teamed up with two other volunteers, loaded a van with supplies and headed down the coast. What was supposed to be two weeks of help soon became a year as they took it upon themselves to help rebuild a village when nobody else would. Along the way they ran into pain, passion and anger as their deeds were worshipped and misunderstood. It’s an interesting sociological examination in the shadow of disaster, and it could even serve as an inspirational boost to people when the next disaster hits. At the same time, it also serves as a warning.

The Third Wave is a feel-good film, and it is meant to be, but it doesn’t hide the problems that come with volunteering. With those things in mind, though, it still comes across as a little too heavy on the savior-complex. That’s not a fault of the film; that’s something that comes with documenting any volunteerism. Neither the problems nor the pluses really do much to effect the film in one way or another, though. In the end viewers are left with the idea that these four people have done a very important and good thing, and that it is something anyone is capable of doing, too. After seeing the problems involved, one has to wonder, however, how many will even try.

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