Body Team 12
Garmai Sumo is the only woman, and the effective leader, of Body Team 12, a group of medical professionals unafraid to handle the bodies of the victims of Ebola in Liberia. She and her team are doing work that must be done to save her country, she explains, and it’s important for a woman — a sister and mother — to be part of the crew, to help the men manage their fear. This urgent dispatch from the front lines of the epidemic, at its most terrifying in the autumn of 2014, depicts what appeared to be the start of an apocalypse, but the film could as easily be a bulletin from a dystopian future.
The seemingly endless, low-grade war in the Nuba Mountains in the southern part of Sudan, just across the border from the new nation of South Sudan, is but a minor footnote in the brutal sectarian conflict that stretches from Syria to Nigeria and from Yemen to Somalia. But its toll in human misery is incalculable.
After decades of conflict, it seems as if nobody really knows how it all began. For the Nubians, however, the fight has become an unambiguous matter of survival as the Sudanese government bombs villages from the air, specifically targeting crops, and actively prevents humanitarian aid from reaching the battle zone.
Director Andrew Berends operates in one of the most venerable traditions of documentary, as the independent observer who makes his way to the front lines to bear witness. Berends’ footage — divided between the Yida Refugee Camp in South Sudan and villages under siege in the Nuba — is nothing short of spectacular, thanks to a combination of what one can only assume is his personal courage and a deep sensitivity to his subjects. Berends taps into the universal by way of focusing on individuals and the harsh specifics of this particular conflict.