Flock (Revoada), the documentary that records the health expeditions of the Leônidas & Maria Deane Institute (ILMD/Fiocruz Amazônia) in the Triple Border region of the state of Amazonas, during the critical period of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, is one of the nominees for the Award of Latin American Independent Film Festival (Mira), which will take place in Germany from 20 to 23 October. The film will have its world premiere at the event. It’s a production from the state of Amazonas and was written, produced and directed by Marcos Tupinambá and Rafael Ramos.
The laboratory boat used by researchers of Fiocruz Amazônia
The 27-minute long movie shows the routine of Fiocruz Amazônia researchers who spent weeks on board a laboratory boat in the Alto Solimões, to collect samples for COVID-19 diagnosis, antigen tests, PCR, identification of new virus strains, vaccination and orientation to health workers regarding the importance of the vaccine and the prophylactic measures against the disease.
Hired by the director of Fiocruz Amazônia, sanitarian physician Adele Schwartz Benzaken, to record the journey, advertising agent and audiovisual producer Marcos Tupinambá says he immediately realized how important the mission would be, not only from an institutional standpoint but also from the documental and artistic points of view.
“The documentary is a portrait of the difficulties faced on a daily basis by the riverside communities in the Amazon for access to health services”, says Tupinambá. “We deal with extreme situations in this region, with many logistic difficulties, and this work of Fiocruz missions was extremely important, especially in such a unique moment as the COVID-19 pandemic”, he explains. In addition to the Amazonian social context, the history also focuses on the human side of the protagonists, who are researchers of Fiocruz Amazônia, among them Felipe Naveca, a virologist of the unit and who was in charge of the mission.
“We identified, within the Fiocruz team itself, stories of suffering for family losses by COVID-19, and we decided to cross these experiences of people who were also working to save lives, but were also facing personal dramas because of the pandemic’, he commented. The result was a humane and immersive documentary that gains international visibility with its debut in Mira. Rafael Ramos, who directed the movie, explains that directing a documentary was a challenge. “This was my first time in the Triple Border area, and we faced adversities that go beyond the huge distances and the precarious resources. We had to deal with the denialism that reaches all distant communities, making the work of science that much harder”, he added.
Mira is in its eighth edition. This year it will take place in the city of Bonn Beuel, in Germany. The film was selected from 1,200 productions of countries such as the United States, Mexico, Colombia, and Argentina. Overall, 59 productions were nominated.
Fiocruz researchers work in Tabatinga
“I was very happy with the nomination, because the documentary was produced with a lot of love from all of us, showing the difficult side that involves facing the challenges of the pandemic, from the scientific point of view as well as from the humane”, said Naveca. For the researcher, the movie will also accomplish an important mission: that of showing that high-quality science is done in the state of Amazonas, with effort and dedication. “For a lot of people who have no idea what happened here, the catastrophe that happened in the state of Amazonas because of the pandemic is something that must not be forgotten”, he emphasizes.
For Adele Benzaken, Fiocruz director, this is the moment to thank everyone who, whether directly or indirectly, participated in the project. “I believe very much in the power of words and images. In this sense, I always use audiovisual tools to record the activities of projects developed in the Amazon, as a way to communicate with the world, so that everyone knows our reality here. For us, this nomination is a reason for pride and satisfaction. It’s an acknowledgment of our work”, said the director.
The project relies on the support of the United Against COVID-19 Program, Mapfre, AFF (Aids Healthcare Foundation), Global Public Health Institute at the University of Miami, 99, ICS (Climate and Society Institute), and Dr. Rosemary Costa Pinto Foundation for Health Surveillance (FVS).
Fiocruz Amazônia did health expeditions between August and November 2021. They were a milestone for the work of extension of health actions developed at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil. During that period, Fiocruz Amazônia played a crucial role in the genomic evaluation of COVID-19 positive samples in the capital and in the hinterland, not only in the Alto Solimões area (Triple Border between Brazil, Colombia and Peru), but also in the regions of Baixo Amazonas and Alto Rio Negro, where many missions of the laboratory boat were also sent.
During the Alto Solimões mission, 925 people were tested and 536 doses of COVID-19 vaccines were applied, in the area of the Tabatinga Port. During these missions, 1,000 antigen tests and 200 personal protection equipment (PPE) items were donated to local health agents.
In the Baixo Amazonas area, antigen and PCR tests for the analysis of coronavirus variants were delivered to riverside communities. For the locals, the arrival of the mission was a reason for joy and thankfulness. In the Alto Rio Negro region, the mission took place from 18 to 25 November 2021, when 323 people were tested for COVID-19.