Mir­a­cle work­ers

Pasatiempo - - Moving Images -

Duk County, doc­u­men­tary, not rated, 6:30 p.m. Thurs­day, Dec. 4, only, Jean Cocteau Cin­ema, 3.5 chiles As a boy, Su­danese na­tive John Dau es­caped geno­cide in 1997 when Su­danese mil­i­tants slaugh­tered vil­lagers in his na­tive Duk County. Dau and thou­sands of young boys made a per­ilous jour­ney by foot into Ethiopia seek­ing refuge. Ev­ery day, chil­dren died of star­va­tion and de­hy­dra­tion. Known as the Lost Boys, their plight at­tracted in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion. Thou­sands, in­clud­ing Dau, were re­lo­cated to the United States after years of liv­ing in refugee camps. Dau re­turned to South Su­dan in 2007 to found the Duk Lost Boys Clinic, a treat­ment fa­cil­ity man­aged by the John Dau Foun­da­tion, which pro­vides med­i­cal ser­vices to more than 75,000 vil­lagers in a re­gion where such care is almost nonex­is­tent.

“What we knew about be­ing blind in South Su­dan is that, when you are blind, you die” be­gins Dau’s narration of Duk County, a doc­u­men­tary on the ef­forts by a team of med­i­cal doc­tors sent to the clinic to com­bat the re­gion’s ram­pant blind­ness. In Duk County, nearly one in 50 peo­ple is to­tally blind. The re­gion is plagued by famine, dis­ease, and geno­cide. South Su­dan be­came an in­de­pen­dent na­tion in 2011, when it se­ceded from Su­dan after decades of civil war, but in­ter­tribal vi­o­lence still rages. Oph­thal­mol­o­gist Dr. Ge­off Tabin leads a team of doc­tors, along with jour­nal­ist (and the film’s di­rec­tor) Jor­dan Camp­bell and pho­tog­ra­pher Ace Kvale, whose haunt­ing still images per­me­ate the film, into the heart of con­flict.

South Su­dan has one of the world’s largest con­cen­tra­tions of blind­ness, much of it the re­sult of cataracts. But, ac­cord­ing Tabin, 80 per­cent of blind­ness in the re­gion is pre­ventable or treat­able and about half of all cases are com­pletely cur­able.

Soon after land­ing in a dusty air­field, the team mem­bers were al­ready op­er­at­ing on pa­tients in rooms swarm­ing with fruit flies and bats while groups of vul­tures watched like sen­tinels from the rooftops. They worked fever­ishly to treat pa­tients as waves of fresh vi­o­lence erupted in the re­gion. Eighty-six vil­lagers were killed in Duk Payuel, the lo­ca­tion of the clinic, among them a pa­tient who had just re­gained his eye­sight. De­spite the vi­o­lence, nearly 300 in­di­vid­u­als were treated at the clinic in five days. Given the odds, it’s an out­stand­ing achieve­ment, and Camp­bell’s heart­break­ing yet hope­ful film makes a strong case for the doc­tors’ con­tin­ued ef­forts.

The screen­ing at the Jean Cocteau Cin­ema is hosted by Out­side mag­a­zine and in­cludes a short pre­sen­ta­tion by Camp­bell be­fore the film. Sam Moul­ton, Out­side’s ex­ec­u­tive ed­i­tor, leads an au­di­ence Q & A and dis­cus­sion af­ter­ward. Pro­ceeds ben­e­fit the John Dau Foun­da­tion.

— Michael Abatemarco

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