There are few more powerful mediums than film. Telling stories through film captures our attention in so many unique ways — in the sound of a person’s voice, the gait of a person’s walk, the emotion in a person’s eyes. It all adds another layer to give us a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the topic at hand. In just a couple hours or less, film can help us understand a person, place or thing that had previously felt entirely foreign to our own experiences.
And so it’s no wonder that public health has embraced this medium as its own. The very nature of public health goals to keep communities safe and healthy means that its practitioners are always looking for new ways to capture the public's attention and reach decision-makers who make public health policy. In addition, public health is increasingly embracing storytelling as a vehicle for awareness and education — and film is a fantastic storyteller. All of this is to say you should definitely check out this year’s APHA Global Public Health Film Festival, which showcases some of the most innovative and interesting public health films, documentaries, narratives, public service announcements, educational videos and much more.
Organized by members of the APHA Public Health Education and Health Promotion Section's Health Communications Working Group and the International Health Section, the annual film festival will offer a number of sessions during this year’s 143rd Annual Meeting and Exposition in Chicago. Overall, the festival will feature more than 115 films from more than 26 countries on a huge variety of topics, such as health equity, toxic exposures, mental health, sexual violence and much, much more. Just a few of the many film festival presentations include:
• Inspiring Action and Change Through Film on Monday, Nov. 2, at 10:30 a.m.: This presentation includes a five-minute film about efforts in Polk County, Wisconsin, to raise awareness of land stewardship and access to healthy foods. Also featured are a commercial about complete streets, a film about shared space road design, and a video about people living with low vision aimed at raising awareness about vision rehabilitation.
• Toxic Exposures on Monday, Nov. 2, at 12 p.m.: Includes discussion of “Toxic Hot Seat,” which focuses on the dangers of chemical flame retardants; “Assist Bhopal” about a gas leak at a pesticide plant in India that became the worst industrial disaster in the world; “Silent Exposure” about the legacy of soldiers’ exposure to Agent Orange; and “Evidence of Harm” on the risks of mercury amalgam dental fillings.
• Let’s Talk About Sex, Shame, Power, Violence on Tuesday, Nov. 3, at 10:30 a.m.: Features a documentary about our cultural fascination with female virginity; a film about female sexuality and shame through the experiences of three women from different walks of life; two documentaries about domestic violence in America and around the world; and a piece from the Center for Digital Storytelling about sexuality, sexual health and Hispanic youth.
• Influencing People: Role Models, Stigma and Stress on Wednesday, Nov 4, at 8:30 a.m.: Includes a 10-minute film on early brain growth and how to best nurture children’s development; a film showcasing kids and their perspectives on divorce; discussion about a Boston-based effort that engaged teens in creating HIV prevention videos to share on YouTube; and a documentary about black women in medicine, featuring former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders.
And on Sunday, Nov. 1, at 2:30 p.m., the APHA Film Festival will host a special screening of “Dreamcatcher,” a documentary about Brenda Myers-Powell, a former prostitute who co-founded the Dreamcatcher Foundation, an organization working to prevent sexual exploitation and end human trafficking in the city of Chicago. The screening will be followed by a discussion with Myers-Powell as well as fellow advocates working to end sexual exploitation.
Check out the 2015 film festival schedule to browse through this year’s offerings. For even more on the power of film in public health, listen to this podcast with Naomi Ranz-Schleifer, chair of APHA's Global Public Health Film Festival, from The Nation’s Health newspaper.
Above, watch the trailer for the documentary "Dreamcatcher," which will be screened during a special film festival session on Sunday, Nov. 1.