Published on 5 Apr 2024

Malaria Documentary Making: How We Do It

Malaria Documentary Making: How We Do It

As filmmakers, we’re in the business of telling stories – and the story of malaria is as old as humanity itself. However, it wasn’t until a British physician, Sir Ronald Ross, observed the development of oocysts in mosquitoes in 1897 that the link between mosquitoes and malaria was confirmed. Since then, the fight against malaria has continued – as has the body of malaria documentary films – and in 2022 alone, 249 million cases of malaria were reported. Thanks to steadfast donor funding, groundbreaking research being carried out across the world, and the recent development and testing of a vaccine, an end to malaria is possible.

Mosquito in amber

Fossilised male mosquito in amber from central Lebanon dating to 130 million years ago

 

Rising to the challenge are organisations like Malaria No More, Malaria Consortium, and the African Leaders Malaria Alliance – all of whom we’ve created malaria documentary projects for. Each of these films have provided us with opportunities to understand the challenges and solutions that make up the wider malaria story.

Malaria is one of the first diseases we encountered in our evolution as global health-related filmmakers – and one that remains the toughest to crack. As with all diseases it’s never just about the insect itself, nor the poor children and mothers that die needlessly – it’s the cohorts of field workers, administrators, programme managers, NGOs, right up to the Ministries of Health that have driven change over the years. Vaccines are now starting to roll out but until every child is protected, millions still remain vulnerable, so their work goes on.

Malaria No More have always taken a bold controversial approach to their messaging – as with their ‘A World Without Malaria‘ campaign featuring David Beckham – to help this “far-off” issue resonate with Western audiences.

Charlie Webster in Uganda

We were part of this back in Uganda in 2018, when we followed athlete and presenter Charlie Webster on a week-long trip to meet the inspiring heroes on the ground who are committed to making sure malaria takes as few casualties as possible.

From behind the scenes, the creation of this short malaria documentary was an adventure, finding ourselves stuck in muddy roads, monkeys stealing lens-caps, running behind bicycles and getting to experience first-hand the incredible resourcefulness, gentleness and hard-working nature of the Ugandan people.

Malaria storytelling

As the go-between for Charlie who had never been to Africa, our MD Steve Maud made sure our talent was supported and captured as things happened. It ended up as a featured article with our stills in the Sun newspaper, driving traffic to view our malaria documentary.

 

As always, Africa has much to teach us in the Western hemisphere.. and thankfully it’s a continent we come back to again and again.

Our work with organisations working on the frontline of the fight against malaria continues, giving us opportunities to tell the stories of organisation like Malaria No More, and the people on the ground, who are driving change.

Whether in Africa or South-East Asia, or elsewhere where it continues to pose a real challenge as climate change expands the footprint of malaria to new areas, our approach in this field is to tell the stories of those who are central to the efficacy of the programmes and their distribution. By doing so, our films, like this malaria documentary, shine a light on the life-changing impact that malaria elimination initiatives have in people’s lives.

It’s only luck that determines where we are born, but those living in hot tropical climes are vulnerable to this killer disease. Yet people are people and we all share the same emotions. Our approach to treating everyone as people rather than victims means we can positively reframe the situation, giving a sense of hope and positivity for the future, rather than casting Africa as a hopeless case.

And with advances in technology, medicines and international ties, it looks a future free from this age-old disease might not be too far off.