PLANO, Texas — The World Health Organization recently announced the shortlist for the 2021 Health for All Film Festival. The festival, now in its second year, features short films up to eight minutes in length that address key topics like universal health coverage, health emergencies and better health and well-being. The WHO’s Health for All Film Festival raises awareness about these topics while also encouraging viewers to take action to help address these areas.
2021 Health for All Film Festival Facts
This year’s film festival began with almost 1,200 entries submitted from 110 countries. The entries were then narrowed down to a shortlist for each major category from which a Grand Prix winner will be chosen and subsequently honored during a live-streamed ceremony. Each Grand Prix winner will receive a trophy and a grant from the festival to urge them to continue to produce films about health. Additionally, the festival will honor winners for special topic categories like student-produced films as well as films aimed at promoting the 2021 World Health Day theme of health equity.
The Film Festival Shortlist
The films touch on a wide variety of topics set in different countries but many unite around one theme in particular. More than 40% of the festival’s submissions were related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Several of these films made the festival’s shortlist, especially in the category of health emergencies.
One such film, Aaron Mathew’s “The Invisible Humans,” examines the disconnect between senior citizens and the outside world in India during the pandemic through an intimate look at the filmmaker’s own grandparents.
Mathew told The Hindu that he filmed “The Invisible Humans” in the course of just two days in August 2020 with few retakes. Mathew said his grandmother was simply a natural in front of the camera despite her lack of experience.
A Tale of Emergency Nurses
Another deeply personal entry is “COVID Story,” a look at nurse Cathlyn Robinson’s time working in an emergency department during the beginning stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. The story features in the award-winning documentary “In Case of Emergency” by Carolyn Jones Productions.
The film was created with the support of the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) which Robinson is part of. The film reveals the raw emotions felt by Robinson and her co-workers as frontline workers during an unprecedented pandemic.
ENA President Ron Kraus said that the documentary “In Case of Emergency” well-reflects the chronicle of emergency nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Animated Short Stories
The WHO’s shortlist of pandemic-related films goes beyond serious, emotionally moving stories, however. “Our True Heroes” from animation company Lightmask Studios in Mexico pays tribute and gives thanks to frontline workers during the pandemic through an entertaining superhero-themed battle through a city between a nurse and a monstrous representation of the virus.
Overall, the various categories well-represent animation as a filmmaking tool and medium. Films like “The Adventures of Alice in Typhoidland” in the better health and well-being category and “The Quiet” in the universal health coverage category tackle topics such as mental health and the ongoing threat of typhoid in other countries.
Films for Awareness
Regardless of the medium, the WHO’s Health for All Film Festival in 2021 aims to shed light on a variety of important health issues much like it did in 2020. The 2020 festival was headlined by winning videos that included powerful films like “A Doctor’s Dream – A Pill for Sleeping Sickness” which tells the story of the fight to develop an extensive medical treatment for a rare and debilitating disease transmitted by tsetse flies.
The second run of the WHO’s Health for All Film Festival looks to celebrate similarly impactful films as the judging panel narrows down the shortlist ahead of the festival’s award ceremony on May 13, 2021.
– Brett Grega