URI film professor reaches Kickstarter goal to complete film chronicling trooper who trains pound dogs for search and rescue

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KINGSTON, R.I. – January 3, 2014 – A University of Rhode Island film professor raised more than $70,000 in 34 days through the online crowd-funding resource Kickstarter to complete her film Reliance, the story of a Rhode Island state trooper who trains pound dogs for search and rescue.


Mary Healey Jamiel, an associate professor of Communication Studies and Film/Media in URI’s Harrington School of Communication and Media, appeared on the Today Show in early December to discuss the documentary.


“This was truly a community effort, an effort by people from every spectrum, connected by a great love of animals, and a deep respect for those who help find the lost and the missing,” said Jamiel. “I could not be happier or feel more proud of the documentary project, and the people who are participating in helping this film to the finish line. They made it happen, and in 34 days we raised over $70,000 for completion funds for the documentary from small backers. These monies will pay for final editing, music score, animations, and sound mix.”


Matthew Zarrella, who appeared with Jamiel on the Today Show, trains dogs for the Rhode Island State Police and other law enforcement agencies and volunteer canine teams throughout the country. He has also helped the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Defense Department. Jamiel’s film is a deeply personal story of Zarrella’s affection for dogs as a boy and how they instilled a confidence in him that brought him to police work. Jamiel also follows Zarrella on rescue missions in the United States and as far away as Vietnam to recover the remains of soldiers missing in action.


The URI professor and Warren resident calls Reliance “the ultimate second-chance story… Here are these dogs that are discarded, and now they can save people,” she said.


“Reliance gives people a rare behind-the-scenes look into the world of missing person searches,” she explained. “In many cases, these searches mean life or death for a missing victim, or the ability to provide answers or closure for decades-old tragedies. This story is remarkable and it has been an unbelievable privilege to capture on film the incredible activities that occur behind the scenes on a missing persons K9 search and rescue operation.”


Mary Healey Jamiel’s 2005 award-winning documentary, Holy Water-Gate, was the first film to expose 25 years of institutionalized cover-up of child sexual abuse by priests, detailing the methods that concealed these crimes for decades. Holy Water-Gate premiered on Showtime Networks and was broadcast on CBC/Canada, SBS/Australia, TVE/Spain, RTSI/Switzerland, DR/Denmark and the Documentary Channel.