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Arts & Culture

'Every Last Child' Paints Moving Portrait Of Battle Against Polio In Pakistan

A health worker administers a dose of the polio vaccine in the documentary "Every Last Child."
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A health worker administers a dose of the polio vaccine in the documentary "Every Last Child."

Reading Gaslamp hosts post-screening Q&A on Saturday

Pakistan is one of three countries still dealing with an epidemic of polio and it accounts for more that 80 percent of the world’s cases, according to the new documentary, “Every Last Child” (opening June 19 at Reading Gaslamp Theaters with a special post-screening discussion Saturday).

Polio is a preventable disease but in recent years children in Pakistan have been in danger of suffering the lifelong debilitating consequences of the virus. Tom Roberts' documentary "Every Last Child" reveals the dangers faced by those trying to fight the disease in a country where the Taliban has forbidden the vaccine since 2012.

World Health Organization workers complain that going into the field shouldn't be like going into a "war zone" but it is. According to the film's website, more than 60 people have been killed while distributing vaccines in tribal areas. But workers and volunteers still risk their lives going door to door in a campaign to try and rid Pakistan of the disease.

The stunningly shot film makes a powerful statement about not only the heroic efforts of health workers but also about how the disease affects people’s lives. The film follows one man who contracted polio as a child and now struggles to get around without use of his legs. We also meet a father whose son has been diagnosed with the disease and is working with doctors to try and ease the side effects. In these scenes, Roberts steps back and just lets the stories of these people unfold.

Roberts is a little less subtle in scenes involving the heath workers who sometimes seem to be performing for the cameras. The film is well crafted but feels less like a documentary and more like a mission driven promotional video. That's not a criticism but rather an evaluation of the film's tone. It's not concerned about showing any other viewpoint than the one it has, which is that polio in Pakistan is something that can be eradicated and needs to be eradicated now. Roberts is obviously passionate about this cause and presents a moving and effective argument for action.

The film ends with optimism as progress has been made.

On Saturday, June 20 following the 3:30 p.m. showing, Reading Gaslamp Theaters will host a post-screening discussion and Q&A with Dr. Wael Al-Delaimy, professor of family medicine and public health at UCSD and Dr. Mark Sawyer, professor of clinical pediatrics at UCSD School of Medicine.