Updated 14 December 2018

New film tackles TB crisis

After a highly successful film on HIV, producers have come together to engage millions in a sub-Saharan Africa film about tuberculosis called The Lucky Specials.

From the producers of “Inside Story” comes a new feature-length film, The Lucky Specials, combining the best of fiction and non-fiction storytelling to demystify tuberculosis (TB), explaining how it spreads and how it can be treated. It is produced by Discovery Learning Alliance and Quizzical Pictures in association with Tangled Bank Studios with support from Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).

TB devastating communities

The Wellcome Trust, and USAID and PEPFAR through the Leadership, Management & Governance Project, led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH), The Lucky Specials will entertain and educate audiences across sub-Saharan Africa, while empowering communities to make informed decisions about their health.

The film will also be a Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment to Action helping audiences across the African continent understand and respond to TB. World Tuberculosis Day is March 24.

The Lucky Specials begins in the dark, wet mining shafts of southern Africa, where rock dust and cramped quarters expose workers to various risks. Like HIV, Tuberculosis is devastating communities across southern Africa in settings like this and others.

Read: Brush up on your TB knowledge

TB kills more than one million people every year around the world and continues to be the leading cause of death among people living with HIV. Here, audiences will meet Mandla, a young man eager to make his mark on African music, played by Oros Mampofu.

Other cast members include Blondie Makhene, Sivenathi Mabuya, Richard Lukunku, Thomas Gumede and Fulu Mugovhani; the film is directed by Rea Rangaka.

Through dynamic characters and a captivating storyline, The Lucky Specials replaces misconceptions about TB with facts and shows the journey of TB bacteria inside the body through state-of-the-art animation. By making the film personal, practical and memorable, audiences will retain critical health information in a context that reflects southern African life and values. 

This movie is an unprecedented opportunity to shape how millions of people see, understand and respond to tuberculosis,” said Aric Noboa, president and executive producer of Discovery Learning Alliance. “We’re thrilled to be back to produce another film with Quizzical Pictures and honoured to work with these world-class partners to entertain audiences while at the same time re-shaping the public dialogue around TB.”

Achieving an Aids-free generation

"Innovative thinking and partnerships are crucial to effectively addressing global health challenges," said Ambassador Deborah L. Birx, M.D., U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy. The Lucky Specials reimagines how to deliver lifesaving information about TB and HIV to affected communities, empowering individuals to make better informed health decisions.  This unique approach transports us to the heart of local communities, which hold the power to help bring life-saving treatment to HIV-TB co-infected patients and, ultimately, achieve an Aids-free generation."

Read: This super-quick TB test will save lives

“HHMI is very excited to join with such great partners to help spread knowledge about TB,” said Dr Robert Tjian, president of HHMI. “HHMI has a special interest in improving the understanding and treatment of TB in southern Africa.

"We formed the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for TB and HIV (K-RITH) as a special joint project between HHMI and the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa specifically to combat the twin devastating scourges of TB and HIV.”

Drug-resistant TB is a major health concern for people living in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Dr Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust. “The need for research into the treatment and prevention of TB, as well as global awareness of the crisis of drug-resistant infection, has never been greater.

"I hope this film will play an important role in encouraging discussions and increasing understanding of the reality of living with TB, by providing a gripping personal story which explores the impact of the disease. Building on the success of ‘Inside Story,’ this film will not only bring the science to life, but also offer a relevant and engaging drama to a young mass audience.

Huge steps to end TB

“Through MSH’s extensive work with TB over the years, we have seen the damaging role of stigma along with the urgent need for increased TB awareness."

"This film is a novel step to reach people with critical information in a time when it is more important than ever,” said Dr Jonathan Quick, president and CEO of MSH. “Through partnerships like this one, and by continuing to implement critical interventions, we can together take huge steps to end TB.”

Read: World first: child-friendly tuberculosis treatment will be available from 2016

“Discovery continues to invest in the region and is pleased to bring informative African content to audiences across the continent and beyond,” said Doug Baker, COO & CFO, Discovery Networks International. “This is our knowledge brand at its best.”

“Inside Story”, Discovery Learning Alliance’s first feature film, is the most widely broadcast film ever in Africa, having reached more than 400 million people across the continent. Inside Story was developed to combat two significant challenges in HIV prevention and treatment: misunderstanding about how HIV works (the science), and HIV message fatigue.

Like Inside Story, The Lucky Specials will offer audiences an unforgettable experience, transporting them to a vibrant inner world where hard-to-grasp science is transformed into a compelling visual reality.

A comprehensive rollout of The Lucky Specials will include theatrical film screenings, national television broadcasts and grassroots distribution by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), schools, and governments.

Facilitator guides and educational materials are being developed for community and public health organisations and schools to help reinforce messages.

A dedicated website will help expand the reach of film content to online audiences. 

Read more: 

What is tuberculosis? 

What causes tuberculosis? 

Symptoms of tuberculosis