Film educates society on TB
16 March 2017
AN African film with lifesaving information about tuberculosis is being used across Southern Africa to entertain and educate millions.
Dubbed The Lucky Specials, the 1hour, 51minute film by South African actors is set to play an important role in changing attitudes and behaviours around tuberculosis.
The feature film educates viewers about tuberculosis while capturing interest through a dramatic storyline. The film tells individuals what they need to know about tuberculosis, treatment, prevention, myths and facts.
The Lucky Specials are a small pop band in a dusty mining town in South Africa.
Bandleader Mandla (Oros Mampofu) works in the mines but because of his passion for music and the guitar, he finds himself performing with the township band in the evening.
Bra Easy (Blondie Makhene) is the owner of the Easy’s Tavern and also the band’s drummer who encourages Mandla and teaches him the modern Zulu guitar (maskandi).
It turns out that Bra Easy has been ignoring tuberculosis symptoms for a very long time and used traditional medicines every time he felt sick without seeking proper health care.
He collapses on stage and is taken to the hospital where he is diagnosed with tuberculosis.
Meanwhile, Mandla also shows signs of TB and the hospital staff request that Mandla and Bra Easy’s other close contacts all be tested.
Mandla i,s however, hesitant to get tested as he fears that he could also have TB. The fear and stigma associated with TB presumably delays him to.
He is later encouraged by Nkanyiso, Bra Easy’s niece who he appears to have love interests. After counselling, he is tested for both TB and HIV, given the rising correlation of the two diseases. He is diagnosed with TB but tests negative for HIV.
He grapples with the first two weeks of treatment, confined to isolation, feels sick, and has challenges eating and sleeping. With Nkanyiso’s support, he soon recovers, continues with medication and their relationship blossoms.
He fears stigmatisation so much and fears what people would say when they find out that he has TB until his friend, Jose confides that although stigma caused him to run away from his home in Mozambique, he learnt to live a healthy life with HIV. The revelation shocks Mandla, who never suspected that Jose could have the ‘dreaded infection’.
Mandla soon starts to feel better and when he is frustrated while trying to refill his medication at a local clinic, he stops taking medication unknowingly that TB germs were still in his body.
He is back into music as he leads the band and they soon find a drummer as they try to recover in the absence of ailing Bra Easy, who has since been discharged to be nursed at home.
A Mozambican music promoter wants to book the band for an upcoming festival but Mandla collapses on stage while auditioning, blowing the band’s chances of making it.
Now Mandla is diagnosed with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) and this time, he doesn’t have it easy as this type is more extreme. He is hospitalised for several months, put on stronger medications with more severe side effects and gets regular injections.
This time he must take several tables daily over 24 months, but he survives and this time he is determined to finish the arduous course and beat the scourge.
Meanwhile, Bra Easy’s lungs are too damaged from tuberculosis because he lived with it for too long without accessing treatment. He dies.
Following Mandla’s hospital discharge and Bra Easy’s death, Mandla faces a mammoth task to revive the band and save Bra Easy’s tavern.
The band travels to Mozambique for the music festival but they find no place to stay and no chance to perform. Jose takes the band to his home where he also reconciles with his family, which regrets blaming him for the HIV infection.
The festival’s headliner band singer falls ill and The Lucky Specials are invited to take over their place, where they perform for a huge crowd.
The crowd loves them, and they get a recording contract following their successful performance at the music festival. Their lives change for the better and they use part of the payment to save Bra Easy’s tavern from debt collectors.
The film is being used to educate the Southern African society at a time when tuberculosis remain a major public health threat and according to the World Bank, this represents an economic development issue in the sub-region and needs to be tackled forcefully.
According to the World Health Organisation, Zimbabwe is among the few countries that contribute between 80-85 percent of the global TB, TB-HIV and drug-resistant TB (DR-TB).
In 2015, the prevalence of TB in the country was 292 cases per 100 000 populations.
TB remains a public health threat in the country which is among the 30 TB high burden countries in the world.
The film is supported by the US Agency for International Development (USAID and several partners as part of its fight against tuberculosis throughout Southern Africa.