Global Health at the Oscars
Sunday night there were two films related to global health and poverty that were nominated for an Academy Award in the best short documentary category. Smile Pinki took the award in the short’s category this year. The other film was The Final Inch (about polio eradication efforts, see the Google.org link below):
- Smile Pinki: Pinki, a girl in rural India whose cleft lip has made her a social outcast, has a chance for a new life when she meets a dedicated social worker.
- The Final Inch: Contributing to the global efforts to eradicate polio worldwide, dedicated individuals in India travel throughout the country urging parents to vaccinate their children against the disease.
Oscar’s past have been given to other global health related films –Born into Brothels which one the best overall documentary in 2004 – and it is good to see this continue. Megan Mylan, a UC Berkeley graduate, who also did the Lost Boys of Sudan, directed Smile Pinki, below are excerpts of an interview with her:
IDA: What inspired you to make Smile Pinki?
Mylan: As a filmmaker who focuses on social issue documentaries, it’s rare that I get into a film knowing we’re likely to have a happy ending. I was excited to tell the story of this beautiful hospital and a team of doctors and social workers treating their patients with such compassion and quality care and making a positive impact. I continue to be inspired by the simple idea that the better we know each other, the better this world is, and I hope people come away from my documentaries feeling like they better understand the life of someone living a very different reality.
IDA: What were some of the challenges and obstacles in making this film, and how did you overcome them?
Mylan: The biggest challenge for me was communicating and finding common ground with the patients and families in the film. Like many of the patients, Pinki’s parents are illiterate dirt-farmers. They had never seen a movie or met a foreigner. I really wanted them to understand my motivation for making the film and gain their trust. I worked with a great field producer, Nandini Rajwade, who along with Pankaj Kumar, one of the social workers in the film, patiently translated my conversations from English to Hindi to the family’s dialect and back, but it was still hard to know through the levels of translation that I was being respectful and clear. I chose to trust the sensitivity of my team and rely on eye contact and instinct.
Global health could certainly use more in the way of video, film, and other creative outlets that help spread success stories. Check out out previous post on global health video outlets.