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POV: Survivors

Airs Monday, Sept. 24, 2018 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Distraught Kadiatu holding Ibrahim before giving him over to Kadija.

Credit: Courtesy of WeOwnTV Freetown Media Center

Above: Distraught Kadiatu holding Ibrahim before giving him over to Kadija.

Documentary about overlooked heroes of the 2014 Ebola outbreak comes to POV

The 2014 Ebola outbreak is remembered as one of the most widely feared epidemics in recent memory. As the virus spread through West Africa, hysterical media reports outside the region fanned the flames of anxiety.

However, according to Sierra Leonean filmmaker Arthur Pratt, the “role that locals played in combating the outbreak was grossly underreported.” Pratt adds that “preoccupation with the foreign experience” overshadowed the contributions of West Africans.

With the collective efforts of other filmmakers, Pratt created “Survivors,” an emotional and gripping documentary that will have its national broadcast and streaming debut on the PBS documentary series POV on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018.

POV: Survivors - Trailer

Through the eyes of two Sierra Leoneans, "Survivors" presents an intimate portrait of the country during the Ebola outbreak, exposing the complexity of the epidemic and the turmoil that lies in its wake. With filmmaker and pastor Arthur Pratt as a guide, Survivors provides unique access into the outbreak, providing a deft account the health catastrophe's political and personal ramifications.

Pratt brings the viewer to the communities of Sierra Leone to follow a few of the unsung heroes who were first on the scene, before international resources parachuted in.

Pratt documents his own experience, along with the experiences of many others who risked death to manage this epidemic, all while holding their families together.

“Survivors” goes beyond the images of bodies being carried in white sheets amid screams and cries of despair. Ebola is seen as an “enemy” that shatters the true foundation of a culture and community.

Survivors - A Success

The family and hospital staff celebrate a young boy's recovery from Ebola.

Pratt explains, “[Physical] contact is part of our everyday life. It’s virtually impossible for me to meet someone in the street without having a handshake, or a hug… [so] with the advent of Ebola, it’s like everything that makes me who I am is under attack.”

Those who fall ill are kept in isolation, separated by walls, tents and even protective clothing worn by healthcare workers.

However, this does not deter nurse Margaret from hugging a colleague who contracted the disease while treating other patients. It does not stop Mohamed, an ambulance driver, from carrying a man on his back to be treated for Ebola. It also does not discourage nurse Kadija from holding and comforting a sick child who is taken from his mother to seek treatment.

Photo credit: WeOwnTV Freetown Media Center

Margaret in scrubs.

These individuals quickly learn that Ebola cannot be managed within the bounds of established protocol and procedures: they take matters into their own hands to help save the lives of others.

Despite their best efforts, they feel overridden by international aid workers who arrive late yet take over. There is anger when these workers make a move to fire Mohamed, considered a hero for the sacrifices he has made.

Survivors - A Conflict

A crowd moves to protest the firing of the ambulance driver, Mohammed, who has risked his own life and health to transport Ebola patients.

“We have been out in these streets sacrificing our lives, and they use us like a tool,” responds Kadija. “When Ebola started, where were you?”

“The compassion exhibited by West Africans as they worked to combat Ebola, despite living with fear and chaos, is inspiring,” said Chris White, executive producer of POV. “As ‘Survivors’ shows, Sierra Leoneans were far from helpless and dependent during the epidemic tragedy. They refused to watch their communities and culture disintegrate in the face of the virus.”

WATCH ON YOUR SCHEDULE:

This film will stream online on POV.org in concurrence with its broadcast. Full episodes of POV are available to view on demand for a limited time after broadcast.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION:

POV is on Facebook, Google +, and you can follow @povdocs on Twitter. #SurvivorsFilmPBS

CREDITS:

Director: Arthur Pratt. Co-Directors: Banker White, Anna Fitch, Lansana Mansaray (Barmmy Boy). Producers: Banker White, Barmmy Boy, Anna Fitch, Arthur Pratt, Samantha Grant, Sara Dosa. Editors: Banker White, Don Bernier. Directors of Photography: Barmmy Boy, MJ Sessy Kamara. Executive Producers for POV: Justine Nagan and Chris White.

POV is American television’s longest-running documentary series now in its 31st season. The documentary is a co-production of American Documentary | POV and ITVS.

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