Greetings again from the darkness. Filmmaker Tom Roberts takes his camera into Pakistan where polio, once near eradication, exploded in outbreaks in a short period of time. The causes of the increase include the Taliban’s 2012 ban on vaccinations and the general public’s distrust of the system.
Roberts puts a face to the disease and to those working so hard to get it back under control. We meet Habib, a 31 year old man who has been disabled since being struck down by polio at age 9. He shares his daily struggles and hope that he will be “fit” in the afterlife. We also see an emotional father as his young son is diagnosed with polio and subsequently fit with leg braces. It’s heart-breaking and painful to watch.
Also getting their share of the story are World Health Organization workers plus the volunteers who work as vaccinators – a terribly dangerous job. We go behind the scenes of the strategy and planning sessions, and witness a government leader step up for the “Justice For Health” plan that will successfully vaccinate tens of thousands of kids over the course of a few weeks … sadly, the vaccinators must be accompanied by armed police forces.
The statistical breakdown of the challenges and successes are a bit difficult to follow, but it’s even more frustrating to hear the citizens discuss putting their kids at risk due to the distrust of the WHO, which they believe is little more than a conspiracy of the western world to control their population. They ignore the infected waters that run through the heart of their cities, but the shift is welcome when their own government becomes the driving force behind the new strategy.
According to Roberts, the United Arab Emirates pushed the campaign and by late 2014, more than 13 million had been vaccinated and polio was nearly back under control. The camera work and access is quite unique and fascinating to watch as Roberts shows us the good, the courageous and the challenges faced.
Zeitgeist Films will release the film in NY on June 3 and in LA on June 12 with additional cities to follow.