Savior Complex Is a Troubling Documentary for a Million Reasons

Savior Complex Is a Troubling Documentary for a Million Reasons
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Savior Complex Is a Troubling Documentary for a Million Reasons. But first, I have to say this… this one cuts close to home. Not the MURDERING bits. But the SAVIOR COMPLEX questions. It’s something that is really – I mean extraordinarily – worth talking about. But we’ll get to that in its time. First, we’ll tell those of you who haven’t had a chance to watch this documentary yet about it – and send you off to find it, and leave us to talk about it.

The story is simple enough – it’s the story of an American missionary who heard from God and created a mission to help malnourished children. Simple. Happens literally every single day. But this time? Renee is alleged to be murdering children. Wait, what? She’s treating hundreds of kids without any sort of medical qualifications. None. Huh. Hrm. See? Doctor Death but the scale is amped by a multiple of 100.

Spoiler Filled Savior Complex Walkthrough

In the realm of thought-provoking documentaries, HBO’s three-part series “Savior Complex” takes center stage by delving into the life of Renee Bach, the organizations No White Saviors and Serving His Children, and the intricate web of colonialism, charity, outrage, class, race, privilege, and naivety that surrounds them. Yet, what sets this documentary apart is its unwavering commitment to avoiding easy answers, leaving viewers with more questions than certainties. Whether one views Bach as a monstrous figure, or a victim of activist justice, “Savior Complex” offers a meticulously detailed exploration that balances Bach’s perspective with heartbreaking eyewitness accounts, reminding us that the truth is seldom one-dimensional.

Renee Bach embarked on a life-altering journey to Uganda as a teenager, following a “divine calling.” After working in an orphanage, she founded her own charity, Serving His Children, in the Jinja district. Her mission was to combat malnutrition in a region plagued by nutritional deficiencies and disease. Two undeniable truths emerge, amid conflicting opinions and moral debates. First, Bach undeniably saved the lives of many children, a fact attested to by grateful mothers. Second, she performed medical procedures for which she lacked qualifications, often relying on intuition rather than expertise. Tragically, over a hundred Ugandan children lost their lives under her care, and the true number may be even higher.

When American registered nurse Jackie Kramlich joined Serving His Children, she was confronted with appalling conditions and a lack of medical competence. Her firsthand accounts, shared in “Savior Complex,” paint a disturbing picture of Bach administering injections and IV drips recklessly, disregarding the advice of qualified Ugandan medical professionals. The revelation that even one child’s life may have been lost due to Bach’s unsubstantiated medical decisions is obviously horrifyingly troubling.

Savior Complex Is a Troubling Documentary for a Million Reasons - a movie so muddled and confusing that it's hard to figure out what's up.

Where things go really off the rails? It’s when No White Saviors, an organization critical of missions like Bach’s, enters the scene. They liken such missions to colonialism, where outsiders assume superiority and exert control over those they aim to help. Director Jackie Jesko (who… unironically happens to be white) crafts a narrative that questions whether Bach was, unwittingly or not, a participant in this age-old strategy. Strikingly, Jesko refrains from overt condemnation, allowing Bach’s own words and actions to reveal her blind spots. I mean, just her inability to pronounce the word, “neocolonialism”?? By itself underscores her ignorance of the systemic issues at play.

“Savior Complex” also sheds light on the imperfections within No White Saviors, an organization, as I’ve mentioned, is led by a white American woman, Kelsey Nielsen. Nielsen advocates for Bach’s prosecution while potentially perpetuating the same savior complex she condemns. The documentary exposes the organization’s questionable tactics, such as exploiting a mother’s tragic story for their cause. Worse, some of their social media campaigns cross numerous ethical boundaries, especially when involving Bach’s adopted daughter.

Amidst the complexities of the Bach case, the numbers themselves become enigmatic. Bach and her supporters argue that 105 children died at Serving His Children, with an 11% mortality rate. Conversely, the nearby children’s hospital recorded a 14% mortality rate over the same period. Yet, these numbers alone cannot encapsulate the full narrative. Could Bach have saved more lives if she had listened rather than acted? Or could her absence have led to even more casualties? It’s a battle of interpretation and perception with no clear victors.

“Savior Complex” skillfully avoids the clichés of true crime docuseries, leaving viewers with a profound understanding of the involved individuals but no definitive answers. Bach contends that No White Saviors’ intervention cost lives by depriving malnourished children of essential care. Simultaneously, her unwavering privilege poses a grave danger. The series raises thought-provoking questions, especially for organizations considering involvement in foreign societies.

In the opening episode, a powerful quote lingers: “God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.” “Savior Complex” underscores the perilous nature of such a belief, one that justifies life-altering actions, including medical intervention, under the guise of a divine calling. It navigates a complex web of ideas, challenging colonial legacies, examining missionary structures, and questioning the ethics of foreign aid. Ultimately, “Savior Complex” is a staggeringly complicated film that is so multifaceted as to lose sight of which way is up, and which way is down. It’s a documentary that requires introspection on the intersection of religion, money, and power in foreign aid, and the narratives we construct about those in need.

Here’s Where Things Get Dicey

I have personally spent most of my career working for a non-profit organization that is focused exclusively on child sponsorships around the world. We connect 1st world countries with 3rd world realities, and allow individuals to intervene. We provide life saving interventions, build wells, create personal connections, and pivotally, we exclusively work with local staff in country through churches on the ground around the world. Did you catch that difference? We empower and support the local authorities on the ground to impact the kids in that region. And yet! Even so! We still get rants from individuals thinking that we are full of ourselves, and have something of a savior complex (neocolonialism to be sure.) Which is rich, really. But whatever.

The question here is – should those that are blessed with more, work to help those in the world that are not similarly blessed? And what should those interventions look like, if so? It’s a complicated question. Books have been written about the problem. Doctoral theses (the plural of thesis) even. Millions upon millions of globs of ink has been spilled specifically on this topic. But, I am of the opinion, you will always do better working directly with the local experts, than presuming you know better. Always. Also, there is nothing like being brought in to a local home, invited in by the Father and Mother… to see what living conditions really are like. Like honestly. I’ve seen hamsters tied by twine and running around the kitchen in Peru. I’ve seen “homes” on the stairs of high rise buildings in Manila. I’ve seen all manner of situations that would belie belief. One hut in Ethiopia I visited? Had a MASSIVE fridge, taking up 20% of the home, sitting right in the middle. I swear. I was gobsmacked. You just never know what you’ll find when you visit a family.

It Takes Ingenuity to Be Poor

Some like to think that underprivileged people are less smart as evidenced by their poverty. I think that the opposite is true… to survive in those sorts of extreme conditions? Requires all manner of ingenuity. Just incredible levels of intelligence and cleverness. I’ve watched as car engines in Haiti are torn down over the course of a week, and as every last ball bearing, and every single detail is sold, reused, what have you. It’s just inspiring really. And I would just caution others away from thinking that you are more clever than the next guy because you are not as poorly off. No. You were born lucky. Sure, you may be wicked smart. Fine. But don’t knock these folks who survive this sort of disadvantaged life day after day.

Is Bach a murderer? That is the really fascinating part of this show. It doesn’t even attempt to answer this question. That 11% vs 14% is a fascinating anecdotal detail. Interesting even. But I would argue she shouldn’t have put herself in that situation in the first place. It just is ripe for failing. She didn’t stand a chance, and it highlights the Western world’s just crazy naiveté. Reminds me of the woman that attempted to bus out a pile of kids after the big Haitian earthquake… like literally tried to drive them out through the DR. I mean, that is kidnapping. I don’t care what sorts of approvals she got from their parents. It literally doesn’t matter. She should have been tried at the Hague. (Seems she was imprisoned in Haiti, then went back to Idaho for more legal trouble.) Anyway, I think about this question every day. Literally. What is our responsibility? And what is the best way to help the local geniuses help themselves?? Anyway, it’s a great documentary.

Edited by: CY