A few years ago I traveled to Malawi, with my colleague Alex Tweedle, to make a self funded documentary about a rare cancer called Burkitt’s Lymphoma which affects more than 200,000 children a year in Equatorial Africa.
The purpose of this film was two fold;
- To make local people in Malawi aware of the condition and the treatment they need to seek out if their child was presenting with the associated symptoms as due to its aggressive nature, early diagnosis is crucial.
- Increase awareness internationally in order to raise funds for much needed research and drug development to treat the condition.
The cause of this cancer (named after British doctor Denis Burkitt who first recognised this tumour based cancer some 50 years ago), is not known although the treatment success rate, if caught in its early stages, is high. This extremely aggressive cancer can double in size within 24hrs and can kill children within a few months.
This documentary provided doctors, health workers, and medical students with a resource to advance understanding and enable early diagnosis and treatment. It has also been used to engage pharmaceutical companies to encourage them to provide affordable drugs to hospitals across Malawi and Sub-Saharan Africa.
"Well, Surviving Burkitts is such a powerful and quite extraordinary document and documentary. Prof Elizabeth Molyneux comes over as a remarkable doctor and human being. The humanity just pours out of her. It feels like such a fitting tribute to Scott and I hope that it is seen by tons of people. It certainly deserves to. It is informative, poetic and profoundly moving. It will stay with me for a long time".
Ruth Caleb O.B.E Executive Producer for BBC Television Acting Head of BBC Drama Group 1996 Head of BBC Drama 1992 - 1995
"Thanks so much for sending the copy of your truly wonderful documentary: Surviving Burkitts. The way you use a camera is so exciting; you are a true visual artist and in this case, you chose two remarkable woman to be your focus. There were no talking heads in this brief masterpiece".
Pat Silver-Lasky (Mrs. Jesse L. Lasky, Jr) Author, Script Consultant and lecturer. Writers Guild of Great Britain, Writers Guild of America, American Society of Authors & BAFTA
“Surviving Burkitts is a vitally important, moving and thoroughly unsentimental documentary. We meet the key characters, get to know them and how much they care, the passion that drives the doctor and nursing staff, the plight of the people. It must get the widest possible television audience.....and soon”.
Graham Benson Chairman, Blue Heaven Productions Chairman, Screen South Executive Producer, BBC
"Just an unsolicited message of congratulations (to you all). I thought that Surviving Burkitts was brilliant in every respect, and very moving. It deserves the widest possible exposure".
Anthony Butterworth AE Butterworth, BA, MA, MB, BChir, PhD, FRS Honorary Professor, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Honorary Professor, College of Medicine, University of Malawi
"Well done for producing such a sympathetic and visually inspiring film. I have given several copies to people who have spoken very enthusiastically about it. Very many congratulations".
Elizabeth Molyneux OBE, FRCP, FRCPCH, FRCPCH (Hons), FCEM Professor of Paediatrics - Queen Elizabeth College of Medicine, Malawi
"Surviving Bukitts is a credit to all the people who have died, fell ill or are suffering from Burkitt's cancer. At times it made me happy, sometimes sad and at one point I wanted to cry. I think this film shouldn't just be shown in the country it was filmed, or just Africa. This program is good enough to be shown internationally and would definitely be enjoyed in Europe and the UK".
Charlie Killick The Citizen Herald
Surviving Burkitts is a very impressive study about the impact of illness and fight against it from an international perspective. The greatest strength of the film is the care the filmmakers take when representing the children. A film focusing on such a difficult topic has the potential to be exploitative, but Surviving Burkitts tells the children's stories respectfully and thoughtfully, raising awareness for their struggle. The main contributor is an incredibly strong presence and her love for her son and the children around her drive the film. The filmmakers' commitment to telling the story with their contributors rather than about them is clear and it makes this film a unique piece of work that will remain relevant for decades to come. For me, that mark of a successful documentary is its ability to raise awareness and to better the lives of contributors or others struggling in similar situations - Burkitts is more than successful on both fronts, with its enduring legacy as proof.
Festival Director. Dr Elena Dirstaru