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Entries in Sudan (2)

Monday
Feb182013

Oscar-Nominated Film, 'Open Heart,' Set in Africa, Where Children Die for Lack of Antibiotics

Courtesy Kief Davidson(NEW YORK) -- When documentary filmmaker Kief Davidson was looking for crew members to accompany him to Rwanda and Sudan in February 2012, he warned them up front there was a good chance they might see a child die.

Davidson would be following eight children with rheumatic heart disease from Rwanda to a state-of-the-art hospital just outside Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, for high-risk surgery.

Open Heart, which has been nominated for an Academy Award in the short documentary category, features Angelique Tuyishimere, a petite, bright-eyed six-year-old daughter of a Rwandan farmer who spent two years in and out of hospitals, her father falling deeper and deeper into debt paying for food, transportation, treatment, and time away from his crops. Another one of the children is Marie Claver, age 17, sick for close to 10 years, her father never far from her side; she's undergone numerous treatments and by early 2012 she had a hole in her aortic valve.

"We made the film because we were outraged by the situation," Davidson told ABC News. He worked with co-producer Cori Shepherd Stern. "Rheumatic heart disease is such a preventable disease, antibiotics are so cheap, and we wanted to bring attention to it. There's so much attention on AIDS and tuberculosis and malaria [in Africa], but very little on rheumatic heart disease."

Before 1960, it was a leading cause of death for children in the U.S. It begins with strep throat, which can lead to rheumatic fever if untreated, causing permanent damage to the heart valves and muscle. Today, with antibiotics, the disease is rare in children in the West, but according to the World Health Organization, 18 million people in Africa are affected by rheumatic fever or heart disease, two thirds between the ages of 5 and 15.

"I was 100 percent convinced that one of these children was going to die," said Davidson, who has a five-year-old son close to Angelique's age. "I was constantly trying to force myself not to become attached to them."

The film is moving, lingering over the relationships between daughters and fathers -- "They were the ones that were able to go to the hospital with their children, the mothers were home taking care of the other children," said Davidson. When the camera follows Angelique into the operating room, the scene is nothing if not tense. "My God, the heart is coming out of the chest," says Strada. "I don't even know if it makes sense to try a repair."

Yet he does repair it, and Angelique survives, as do the other seven, although Marie needs another operation and cannot return home with the group.

"After the surgery, all of a sudden I started to see their personalities emerge," said Davidson. In one scene at the lunch table, Angelique, who had been very lethargic before the operation, teases her peers and the filmmakers. "Angelique has a great sense of humor. She was always really curious. Everyone forgot about us, or were bored with us. Angelique liked having us around. She turned into an energetic, fun, sweet girl."

Returning home presents its own challenges. Many of the children will be on medication for the rest of their lives, and "local" health care is often hours away. But now, a year later, the children featured in "Open Heart" are doing well, according to Davidson. The two doctors in the film -- Dr. Gino Strada and Dr. Emmanuel Rusingiza  -- will be traveling to Los Angeles for the Academy Awards. And, if passport and visa issues are resolved, so too will Angelique and her dad.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Mar182012

Why George Clooney Wants to Save Sudan

Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Three weeks ago, George Clooney was sauntering down the Oscar’s red carpet in Giorgio Armani threads, cracking jokes with Ryan Seacrest.

Twenty-eight days, one round-trip flight to Sudan and a rowdy protest later, the now-scruffy Hollywood superstar has swapped his designer suit for a pair of handcuffs and his cheeky E! interviews for gravely serious sit-downs on the Sunday morning political shows.

So what inspired America’s sexiest man to launch his crusade to bring aid to the war-ravaged people of Sudan?

“I grew up in a family that believed that … your job was to be involved with your fellow man,” Clooney said on “Fox News Sunday.” “You have a responsibility to participate in the human condition, one way or another.”

Clooney, whose father Nick Clooney was a broadcast news anchor, said that growing up around news made him a “big believer in the importance of information.” He also learned the realities of hard news being scrapped for celebrity gossip.

“I saw my father in the ’70s doing really good stories and then getting bumped because there was a Liz Taylor story that was going to be out,” Clooney said.

When he first learned of the plight in Sudan back in 2006, Clooney said his first reaction was to call his journalist father.

“I said, ‘Remember how you used to get all your stories bumped by Liz Taylor or something happened in Hollywood?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Well, let’s go to Darfur. And you be the newsman and I’ll be Liz Taylor and let’s get it on the air,’” Clooney said Sunday.

Last week, Clooney made the rounds in Washington, D.C., in an attempt to convince Congress and the president to initiate negotiations with China to intervene in Sudan against the country’s president, Omar Al-Bashir, an alleged war criminal.

“What’s going on right there is exactly what we saw in the beginning of Darfur,” Clooney said. “All three men charged with war crimes at The Hague are the same three who are now bombing indiscriminate innocent civilians with Antonov planes with 300-millimeter Chinese rockets.”

Clooney, who appeared on three Sunday morning news programs on Sunday said the United States and China are in a unique bargaining position right now because South Sudan has stopped producing oil, thereby eliminating 6 percent of China’s oil imports.

The actor argued that with gas prices rising, the fighting in Sudan is now more than a humanitarian issue. It’s an economic one.

“When the Chinese aren’t getting their 6 percent from Sudan, they are getting it [oil] from somewhere else and that drives the [gas] price up for everyone else,” Clooney told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.

Realistically, Clooney said the U.S. and NATO are not going take military action to stop the Sudanese government from bombing civilians. So instead he called for the United States to employ the same techniques the government uses to discover the funding channels of terrorist organizations to “go after” the money supporting the Sudanese “war criminals.”

And at the end of the day, Clooney said it is all about “saving lives.”

“We are going and standing where people are shooting rockets at us and we’re standing where there’s a bomb hit the ground and didn’t blow up, and that helps get attention to the story that we are trying to tell, then that’s all we can do,” the actor said on Fox. “I don’t make policy. I can just make it louder.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio








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