Tanzania Day 1

2 06 2011

Sunset comes at 6:30. We are recounting the first day of shooting at the roof bar of our hotel. As a call to prayer reverberates across Dar es Salaam from the north, we toast with Tuskers malt lager. It’s our ritual, easier on the knees, and besides, we like to know what kinds of brew our host country is capable of, from Kilimanjaro to Kingfisher.

So I am comfortable calling this day 1, after a modest but somehow adequate three and a half hour sleep. Today required us to shoot slightly covert. At least from the sound prospective. Our subject had a meeting with the secretary of the national health minister, which he had to pay $3800 to schedule (we filmed our subject counting the money).

Any sound guy would share my trepidation with having to trust a Canon 5D to record production sound and a DP who refuses to monitor. Not that he even could if he wanted to on this particular camera. It became clear, really fast, that all I had to do was test, test, test….and then trust.

The director and DP went in to film the meeting while the rest of us waited outside learning Swahili from the parking attendant and talking about soccer stars. He thought I looked like Messi, and called me that for the rest of our time.

We hung out for thirty minutes under broad reaching trees while women in respirators swept up leaves and dirt from the street. Students passed by, some with smiles for us and other with scowls. All of a sudden I see the DP making double time down the street towards us.

“Get in the car now. We are going back to the hotel.”

Evidently the ministry was not too keen on the filming and wanted the footage. Which, incidentally, includes a shot of the secretary taking the $3800 and putting it directly into her purse. No receipt, no ledger entry, no thank you.

The second half of our day consisted of visits to clinics to determine (and film) whether or not they maintained cleanly and responsible management of used needles. Naturally, many of the directors were uneasy at the presence of cameras in their facilities. But few of them had anything really to worry about…until the last one.

It was immediately clear from the used syringes standing by in cups that they were not destined for the incinerator. In fact, several were used to aerate an IV bottle for a woman suffering from malaria symptoms. Instead of letting gravity do the work, which I have heard is pretty dependable, they used the needles to puncture holes in the bottle to allow the air to push the solution into the vein of the woman who seemed positively unaware of the danger she was being subjected to.

However necessary for our documentary, the scene was simply quite gruesome. Misuse of needles is a massive problem. It’s responsible for millions of new cases of infectious disease every year. It’s why we are here in the first place. And according to our schedule, there is way more in store.

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