The short documentary above describes efforts by citizens of Georgetown, the capital of Guyana (South America), to battle a Lymphatic Filariasis (LF) problem caused by the city’s underdeveloped sanitation and water filtration systems that are drawing in mosquitos. Continue reading
The Cove is a 2010 Academy Award winning documentary which I watched a few months ago. It exposes cruel dolphin hunting practices in the small Japanese town of Taiji and it follows the efforts of Ric O’ Barry, a former dolphin trainer who in the 1970s actually captured and trained the dolphins used in the TV show Flipper. He had a change of opinion regarding dolphin captivity through his experiences which led him to declare that dolphins are unable to be happy in captivity. Much of the endeavor required secret filming which shows in graphic detail the gruesome harpooning of several thousand dolphins that are lured and trapped in a small cove every year from September to April. Continue reading
Following the 84th Academy Awards, I was once again reminded of the power of films. Good films take the viewer into another world and make that world a reality for those precious 100 minutes. Many might agree that Blood Diamond was one such movie, bringing us into a clashing scene of African civil war, the smuggling of precious stones across borders, the covert corporate corruption in the West, and the inhumane transformation of children into soldiers. Five years have passed since Blood Diamond was released, and for most, the tale of refugee Solomon Vandy (Djimon Honsou) and diamond smuggler Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a memorable drama which reminds us not to buy diamonds mined from conflict zones.
I had the privilege of attending a private screening of Saving Face, the winner of Sunday night’s Oscar for Best Documentary (Short Subject), followed by a Q & A with one of the directors, Daniel Junge, and one of the documentary’s protagonists, Dr. Mohammad Jawad, a British-Pakistani plastic surgeon whose work the film revolves around. On a quick side note, Dr. Jawad was the also the surgeon who operated on British model and acid victim Katie Piper who recently had her eye sight restored through stem cell therapy. In short, Saving Face is about Dr. Jawad’s journey back to his home land of Pakistan where he works to reconstruct the faces of women who have suffered acid attacks by their husbands, other males of close relation, and sometimes even other women. The reasons cited by attackers in many of the countries where acid violence is an issue are multifold- refusal by the women to accept unwanted marriage proposals, basic petty arguments in the house over minor issues, and even attempts to simply pursue education as a woman. The film interviews several survivors of these attacks, mostly women from rural areas, and focuses on two main characters, Zakia and Rukhsana, who are both victims. One of the sub-plots includes Zakia’s court case against her husband which she eventually wins through the application of a recently passed Pakistani bill that sentences between 14 years and life in prison, as well as a $14,000 fine for men who are perpetrators of acid attacks. Throughout the documentary, several women’s faces are shown, most of which are gruesomely deformed from the attacks and consistently elicited waves of shocked gasps from the audience. I whole-heartedly applaud Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy (the other director) for giving these women a voice to the rest of the world, and to Dr. Jawad for using his plastic surgery skills for something other than breast implants (which he says he also does quite well in the documentary). The government of Pakistan, elated at the indirect receipt of an Oscar, has also declared that Ms. Chinoy will be presented with Pakistan’s highest civil award upon her return. Continue reading
While working in Hyderabad, I was often told that the public knows about sex trafficking but doesn’t want to interfere because of the mob connection and its obvious dangers. A Kolkata based NGO, Krishnayam, tried out an experiment staging a typical encounter between a pimp and a street child in a busy market. They had trained actors secretly playing the roles in an effort to see what the public response would be. I was surprised to see a show of civic sense and collective action that I had yet to encounter in my past few months in India. Some fellow researchers and I are considering investigating the potential for a Bystander Approach applied to sex trafficking and this video is evidence in its support. It makes me think that simple awareness may be a more relevant factor than I originally thought.
The next time you crunch into a Kit-Kat or Hersheys chocolate bar, or eat a birthday cake topped with chocolate frosting, consider this: a young, uneducated, unpaid, malnourished West African child has likely cut open the cacao fruits that held the cocoa seeds of the chocolate which you are now eating. Continue reading