PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Three years ago, members of the the Brown community came together to search for a missing student, and the campus was rocked by erroneous reports connecting the student to the Boston Marathon attacks.
On Monday, March 14, the University will host an advance screening of the award-winning documentary “Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi,” which chronicles the 2013 search – and the harsh media spotlight following the mistaken connection to the marathon bombings – that ended in the discovery of Tripathi’s death by apparent suicide.
“This story, in part, belongs to us,” said the Reverend Janet M. Cooper Nelson, University chaplain. “As sad as it is, it’s a story that really reveals what it means when we talk about the Brown family. Nobody quit. Everyone was determined. If there was anything we could do to bring him back, we were going to do it.”
Nelson and Brown President Christina Paxson will introduce the screening at 6 p.m. on Monday in the Salomon Center for Teaching. Tripathi’s parents and siblings – including his sister, Sangeeta, and brother, Ravi, both Brown alumni – will also attend.
Directed by filmmaker Neal Broffman, “Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi” unfolds during the search for 22-year-old Sunil “Sunny” Tripathi, a Brown student on leave from the University, who disappeared from his Providence apartment in March 2013. Brown community members joined Tripathi’s family and law enforcement in an exhaustive search for him. Weeks later, with Tripathi still missing, social media and subsequently news media reports lit up with the erroneous information that he was one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects. Tripathi’s body was discovered soon afterward.
The film highlights the widespread media attention Tripathi and his family received following the mistaken connection to the Boston Marathon bombing. It explores questions about social media and journalism ethics and details the powerful and difficult impact his disappearance had on the Brown community. The film has received accolades at several national and international film festivals.
The March 14 screening will be followed by refreshments and small group discussions facilitated by professional staff and student leaders working on mental health advocacy and wellness on campus.
“One of our goals is to assure people in the Brown community that their well-being is our concern and that we have a variety of assets here for identifying the right supports for them,” Nelson said. “We hope this film will bring into the light a conversation about suicide and depression that might help others suffering, and that in this, it will also honor Sunil.”
A Pennsylvania native, Tripathi came to Brown as an undergraduate in 2008. “He was a philosophy concentrator and accomplished saxophonist with a keen interest in music,” Paxson wrote to the Brown community in an April 2013 notification about his death. “He was known to be a serious, thoughtful, intellectually curious student and a brilliant writer. Sunil will be remembered by all who knew him for his gentle demeanor and generous spirit.”
The screening is free and open to the public. It is sponsored by a broad range of University offices and student groups, including the Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), Health Services, the Office of Student Life, the Office of the Dean of College, the Mental Health Community Council, Project LETS, and Active Minds.
CAPS will have open support groups after the screening on Tuesday, March 15, from noon to 1 p.m., and on Thursday, March 17, from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.