M2EP Filmmaker Challenge Winner Goes to Africa

By Martin Kittappa 11-13-2009

Editor's Note: In anticipation of The Mobilization to End Poverty, World Vision and Sojourners sponsored the first-ever Filmmaker Challenge. Filmmakers from around the country were invited to create a short video (less than four minutes) for YouTube that demonstrates "what you can do to end poverty." The first-prize filmmaker, Martin Kittappa, received a free trip to Africa with World Vision to help film a project with the World Vision Staff.


Every time I purchase a new piece of film-making equipment, I usually say a short prayer that God will somehow use what I have bought for his glory. I think as filmmakers we need all the prayer we can get in order to use our skills and our tools to tell God's story to a generation of people swamped with immoral and amoral media. (Consider how big the American pornographic film industry is -- it paid around $8 billion in taxes to the U.S. treasury in 2006, while Hollywood paid around $2 billion.)

When my film, 'The Importance of Flossing,' won the Sojourners and World Vision-sponsored filmmaker competition for the Mobilization to End Poverty, that seemed to me to be a great opportunity to speak of God's heart to the world's poorest and most oppressed people.

At the beginning of September I met up with Tom, Margaret, and Andrea from the World Vision media unit at the Atlanta airport. We boarded our long flight to Mozambique where, in the north of the country in some of the most remote communities, we were to shoot a film about the problems and issues surrounding malaria. Although this was a prize for winning the competition, I treated this like any other commercial project I would have been hired to work on, bringing nine years of location sound mixing experience. (The joke became that I had entered a competition, but Tom actually won a sound a mixer for his project.) This seemed like the kind of thing that would honor all those prayers over the film gadgets and gizmos I have been acquiring over time.

We traveled along roads only accessible in 4x4 vehicles to villages where communities had been devastated by malaria. Children tend to be hit especially hard, as they don't always take the precautions to prevent the disease when they are at play. We interviewed a woman who lost her preteen son to the disease, and another woman who lost her husband and five children to the scourge of malaria.

Malaria has a high mortality rate, but even those who don't die cannot work whilst they are suffering. The social and economic consequences of the disease hinder the ability of these communities to develop and improve. Also, once a person contracts malaria, it can never be 100 percent cured. It will lay dormant in the body for many months before becoming active again and again.

The sad thing we learned is that it is an easily controllable disease if only the investment could be made. Prevention is relatively simple -- a $2.00 mosquito net will stop an infected mosquito from biting a sleeping person. Clean water would prevent people from having to collect water at mosquito-infested rivers. Safe, cheap insecticides, easily accessible medication, and basic hygiene regimes would almost eradicate this disease if only the will was there to make it happen.

We interviewed a local doctor who told us of his frustrations: all too often the medication would run out, so when infected people walk for six hours to come to his clinic for treatment, he has nothing to give them. We interviewed the family of a little girl in his clinic who was suffering with malaria. Later, we heard that she died two days after we saw her.

But in spite of all the problems, there is hope. We filmed local activists who traveled through the villages using music and drama to teach people how to prevent malaria and how to recognize the symptoms early so they can seek treatment right away. World Vision is actively running a campaign to make sure every person has a mosquito net and knows how to use it. Water pumps are slowly being installed.

It will take a lot of work and dedication to put an end to this affliction. We have managed to all but eradicate this disease in the Western world; there is no real reason why this cannot be achieved in Africa. I can only hope that the film we made will be a call to action.

You can see pictures of my trip on my Facebook page.

Blog bio photo Martin Kittappa has been working in the film business for nine years. His passion is to make powerful films that will give a voice to people in this world who don't have one due to injustice and poverty. He now lives in Pasadena, California, with his wife, Iihae.

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