Thursday, April 17, 2014

3000 Cups Of Tea: Revisiting The Greg Mortenson Story

It has been some time since we've had any kind of update on the Greg Mortenson story. You'll recall, he's the climber-turned-author-turned-humanitarian who wrote the book Three Cups of Tea, and then proceeded to use his platform to raise funds to build schools for girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan. His organization, the Central Asian Institute (CAI) was viewed as a model for doing good in struggling countries.

But then, in 2011 Mortenson became the subject of a hard-hitting 60 Minutes piece that called into question the stories he wrote about in his books, how the money CAI was raising was being spent, and whether or not schools were being built at all. That followed on the heels of an article written by John Krakauer entitled Three Cups of Deceit, which further blasted Mortenson, essentially calling him a liar and a fraud. In a matter of a few months, Mortenson's world crumbled around him, and CAI's funding dropped dramatically. Civil lawsuits were raised against him, although most were quickly dismissed, and for his part Mortenson disappeared from the limelight, with not much more to be told.

That is, until now.

Two filmmakers, Jennifer Jordan and Jeff Roads, are working on a documentary that delves back into the Greg Mortenson story. Their film is called 3000 Cups of Tea (see trailer below), and it is nearing completion. They say they have a very different side of the story to tell, and that their experience with CAI, and Mortenson's work, does not resemble what 60 Minutes reported. They have visited many of the schools that were the result of Greg's work, and they say that aside from a few that aren't up and running, most of them are serving the purpose that their founder intended.


Recently, Jennifer and Jeff gave ExWeb an interview about their work, and what they had to say was quite interesting. While they don't address all of the issues raised against Mortenson – they'll save that for the film – they certainly do offer a different view from what has been the public story over the past few years.

The filmmakers are seeking $40,000 to complete their documentary so they can get it out to the public to see. To that end, they've set up a donation page for anyone who would like to contribute. They hope to wrap up production soon and have the film released sometime this year.

Personally, I'm looking forward to seeing the final product. When the 60 Minutes and Krakauer story broke, it was big news in the adventure and mountaineering community. It seems only fitting that we report on the other side of the story too. It is also important to point out that Mortenson and CAI continue to press ahead with their work, despite funding dropping off by 80%. Apparently, the author was able to build up a sustainable fund to keep his efforts going, even when hard times set in. That's a far cry from the financial mismanagement that was reported in 2011.

Hopefully we'll hear more about this soon.


"3,000 Cups of Tea" Trailer from Jennifer Jordan on Vimeo.

5 comments:

Dr. Steven Price said...

I have spoken with Pakistanis who have visited schools in Pakistan Mortenson constructed; the criticisms leveled at Mortenson were meaningless to them. They could not speak more highly of him.

Kraig Becker said...

Thanks for posting your thoughts Steven. That seems very clear in the trailer for this film too.

Louis-Philippe LONCKE said...

It's a very problematic story. I do believe schools are being built and then of course the kids and locals are happy. But other "recent" articles are not so optimistic. It's not about the schools being built, it'a about how 100% of the donation money is being used ?

http://articles.latimes.com/2012/dec/03/entertainment/la-et-jc-david-oliver-relin-three-cups-of-tea-mortenson-20121203

http://www.latimes.com/books/jacketcopy/la-et-jc-greg-mortenson-of-three-cups-of-tea-returns-to-explain-his-actions-20140120,0,2820493.story#axzz2yVat3fSb

http://www.today.com/books/three-cups-author-greg-mortenson-i-let-lot-people-down-2D11961320

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/04/08/is-it-time-to-forgive-greg-mortenson.html

I'd call is what is the ROI/I : return on investment and impact!

Jeanne Grunert said...

I think it's a tough part of the world to work in, and he's doing a good job in difficult circumstances. I don't know how much of the book was fact, fiction, or perhaps memories remembered differently than the original events. For my part, I hope the movie does get made. It would be good to get an update on the story.

Unknown said...

Mr. Loncke, I highly recommend locating all the articles discrediting Jon Krakauer. He had been so discredited that it seems the only strategy he could think of was to find someone else to discredit in turn. What a loser he is.

Another interesting thing is to view the actual 60-minutes "interview," in which the "interviewer" is clearly out to get Mortenson, alternately twisting and ignoring what he says. In a just world, the "interviewer" would have been reprimanded or fired for slandering someone to increase his own media visibility: his conduct was really repellent, and Greg Mortenson has been too too too too kind to them in response to their treachery.

Greg Mortenson has continued to change lives, and the rest of this is simply evil nonsense. There: I've said it!