In an age of information, it is somewhat startling that misinformation has garnered traction during one of mankind’s darkest moments: the Covid-19 pandemic.
With much of the world shut down by March 2020 as countries closed borders, medical professionals stretched to a capacity, unsurpassed economic catastrophes, and unimaginable sorrow, it is the experts we can turn to for guidance.
Zero to Zero – taking 15 months to make – is a local documentary that is unlike many others about the pandemic because of radiologist and part time filmmaker Professor Leonie Scholtz. As a medical professional, she has had unmatched access to what her fellow colleagues and patients go through at a time when we are all forced to be alone, something that is even more heart-breaking when you’re ill with Covid-19. “No photographers had access to [this] war,” she says. “The effect of the isolation, the trauma to the healthcare workers. I was a photographer and a doctor and I had unprecedented access.”
A press briefing about the doccie in September brought together the country’s most valuable minds to talk not only about Zero to Zero, but our future.
Health Minister Dr Mathume Joseph 'Joe' Phaahla says:
Sometimes as citizens we take it for granted and don't realise the resilience it takes for our health workers. The nation appreciates your sacrifices. We all have a contribution to make.
This documentary is a hopeful and truthful portrayal of this pandemic. It touched the lives of every human being on this planet. We tried to show the public what happened on the frontline because no one knew.
We need to be comforted by our families and once admitted to the unit, then you were alone. The only consolation is the health care worker next to you. The footage from overseas, people were blocked out. It wasn't real stories.
We [co-directors Christa Lategan and Shem Compion] didn't have a script. We didn't write the script, it came to us. When I started, I got permission from the management, I served on the Covid committee. When I started – and for Shem and Christa – the stories evolved. I went into the ER everyday with my camera.
The reason I wanted to film the 14-year-old is exceptional. She had no comorbidities. We needed to show that. We don't know why some people get so sick. We tried to get patients who show the whole spectrum of the disease. We needed to show that this disease affects everyone. We showed the indiscriminate nature of this disease.
Professor Salim Abdool Karim, a clinical infectious diseases epidemiologist says:
This [documentary] captures a very brutal condition, you can't breathe, it makes you do all of that in isolation. You are all alone and you suffer. And the only people there are the health care workers. That is the power you see. You see it from the lens first hand. It takes us back to the fundamental issue in this pandemic, we are all inter-dependant. Our interconnectedness
Our fundamentals remain very important tools in dealing with the next wave.
I know we are tired, I know we are frustrated, I know we would like to get back to how things were. But the waves don't agree.
Dr Yanila Nyasulu, a specialist physician says:
As a frontline worker, it has been one of the most exhausting, emotional, mentally and physically draining experience. We love our people and we fight for them. But it drains us.
The disconnect patients have when they are separated from the loved ones, it makes the situation more heightened. Families turn to us and they are frustrated. And it heightens our anxiety.
We want our patients to get better. We want SA to survive, we want humanity to survive.