“The Lucky Specials” Film Premieres in the U.S.: an Entertaining Story with a Powerful Message About Health

March 22, 2017

“The Lucky Specials” Film Premieres in the U.S.: an Entertaining Story with a Powerful Message About Health

By Jordan Coriza

As the global health community prepares to observe World TB Day on March 24, Discovery Learning Alliance, the nonprofit subsidiary of Discovery Communications, opened “The Lucky Specials” in the U.S., a feature-length film about a small-time band in a dusty town in southern Africa with an important message about health.

Mandla (Oros Mampofu) is a miner by day and plays lead guitar for The Lucky Specials by night. He dreams of making it big in the music industry, but when tragedy strikes, the band, Mandla, and their friend Nkanyiso (Sivenathi Mabuya) struggle to hold everything together.

Woven into the narrative are messages to help audiences understand and respond to one of the world’s biggest killers, tuberculosis, which killed almost two million people worldwide in 2015. That is more people than died from AIDS that year. With a unique fusion of live-action drama and state-of-the-art animation, “The Lucky Specials” reveals the unseen world of TB from the inside out.

“Media, particularly film, has immense power to entertain, to express emotions and to inform individuals in a way that nothing else can,” said Aric Noboa, president of Discovery Learning Alliance and producer of the film at the premiere, held at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, Maryland. “This film has it all: a new genre of music created specifically for the movie, a great story and a powerful message. We are privileged to work with our distinguished partners to bring this story to audiences across southern Africa and around the world.”

The global health community has consistently worked with the public to close the knowledge and awareness gap about TB. This film is a great tool to support their efforts. It can make a tremendous difference among key audiences: for young men who rarely go for health services; for young women, also vulnerable to stigma, who will benefit from the film’s strong female role models and caregivers. “The Lucky Specials” acknowledges the fact that TB and HIV often go hand-in-hand yet require specific treatment. The film will work to help reduce stigma.

The movie is based in South Africa, where TB is an epidemic and has increased 400 percent in the past 15 years. One percent of its population develops active TB each year.

“’The Lucky Specials’ uses compelling personal stories to convey critical health information, an approach with the potential for great impact,” said Marian W. Wentworth, president and CEO of Management Sciences for Health, one of the film’s technical partners.

[Marian Wentworth, MSH President and  CEO with Oros Mampofu, the star of "The Lucky Specials"]{Photo credit: MSH}

A valuable part of any health system is the broader community it services, and creative media, such as a feature film with educational health content, can likely reach more people than other awareness efforts. Many of the countries affected by TB have low rates of health literacy. Film is an engaging way for people to find out what they need to know to protect themselves and get treated.

“When I read the script, it connected,” said Rea Rangaka, the director, who attended the US opening of the movie. “I am drawn to films that have powerful messages, especially when they come packaged in a good story. This story, as well as working with a great cast and crew, made ‘The Lucky Specials’ a deeply personal experience for me; I think audiences will understand and identify with what the characters are going through.”

A unique global health intervention, “The Lucky Specials” demystifies tuberculosis and aims to create personal and community behavior change that lowers infection rates and increases the percentage of people seeking and adhering to TB treatment.

Produced by Discovery Learning Alliance and Quizzical Pictures in association with HHMI Tangled Bank Studios, with support from Wellcome Trust, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), and USAID and PEPFAR through Management Sciences for Health, “The Lucky Specials” was selected for the Toronto Black Film Festival and the Pan-African Film Festival of Ouagadougou, where it received the SIGNIS award. Discovery Learning Alliance and Quizzical Pictures previously produced the widely-acclaimed film “Inside Story,” which focused on HIV, was broadcast to more than 400 million people across Africa and won several film festival awards.

For full updates on “The Lucky Specials” visit www.luckyspecials.com or find “The Lucky Specials” on Twitter (@LuckySpecials) or Facebook.

[MSH staff at "The Lucky Specials" premiere at Discovery Communications in Silver Spring, MD. L-R:  Jordan Coriza, Douglas Keene, Vickie Barrow-Klein, Barb Ayotte, Jason Wright and Carole Douglis]{Photo credit: MSH}