A Lens on Health: Filmmakers Focus on Pandemic Health Issues

The new generation of film and video innovators are now championing global health issues to promote health education through audiovisual media. This year, the World Health Organization (WHO) Health for All (HAFF) Film Festival received submissions from more than 1,020 filmmakers from more than 110 countries, and the films largely focus on themes ranging from the trauma of war to living with Covid-19. Independent filmmakers, production companies, NGOs, communities, students and film schools from around the world present their original short films in the third edition of HAFF. Additionally, the festival joined the celebration of World Health Day (WHD) on April 7 with a special playlist dedicated to “Our Planet, Our Health” as the theme of WHD this year. This reading list has collected submissions from HAFF publishing, as well as other productions from WHO and other UN agencies.

The health topics covered by the 2022 selection are very varied: war trauma; non-communicable diseases, including mental health issues; disability; malaria; communicable diseases, including Covid-19, HIV-AIDS; as well as environmental and social factors of health, including gender-based violence, road safety and pollution, health emergencies, such as Covid-19, Ebola, disaster relief and health in conflict situations . Films on the environmental and social determinants of health, such as nutrition, sanitation, pollution, gender and/or health promotion or health education, in addition to the benefits of sport and arts on health are also part of the selection.

While more than 70 films have been shortlisted, this year saw wide participation from patients, health workers, health activists, NGOs, students, public institutions, as well as filmmakers. professionals. Including applications received in 2022, nearly 3,500 films have been registered by the festival since its launch in 2020, many of them specially made for the initiative.

Similar public health stories in each edition in 2020 and 2021 attracted an average of 1,250 amateur and professional short film submissions from 110 countries. In 2021, more than 40% of short films presented themes related to Covid-19.

Films play a unique role today. As an art form, a language, an educational tool, a method of disseminating information, and a vehicle for social marketing, films have the power to communicate stories. Especially, over the years, and in the last two years, when health has been a topic of interest for filmmakers. The Dutch Global Health Film Festival in March, held online this year, featured films covering key global health issues: gender-based violence; planetary health; colonialism; and youth activism. Like Dying To Divorce, a film directed by Chloe Fairweather, was shot over five years. It takes viewers to the heart of Turkey’s gender-based violence crisis and political events that have severely eroded democratic freedoms. Another film called Green Warriors directed by Martin Boudot describes how 500,000 Europeans die prematurely due to air pollution.

The Singapore Mental Health Film Festival 2021, an online film festival used films as a catalyst to promote
conversations about mental health. The vision was to provide an inclusive and safe platform for stories about recovery and resilience by showcasing different aspects of mental health through a series of films, panel discussions and workshops. A film called Sorry I Missed You, directed by Ken Loach, is about the trauma and struggle of Ricky and his family, who have struggled with debt since the financial crash of 2008.

Milwaukee Film, a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to entertainment, education, and engagement
community through film experiences, with a vision to make Milwaukee a center of film culture, has hosted the annual Milwaukee Film Festival since 2009. As the festival celebrates the power of film, its Minority Health Film Festival, created to expand conversations in Milwaukee communities, features unique film selections, community forums and an interactive health fair on the health status of racial ethnic minority populations. Film topics include: health care and medical research in communities of color, mental health awareness, faith and health care, healthy relationships, healthy eating, child development and maternal well-being, access to health care, housing, finances, employment and economic development.


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