Documentary about the pandemic in the Brazilian Public Health System is eligible for OSCAR

By Mayara Floss

Community health work features at a Brazilian “favela”. Image credits: Victor Juca

It is common for family doctors during conferences to search for art inspirations to translate the challenges of Primary Healthcare. When the pandemic started, everything was new but also unequal, like access to health, masks, respirators, and oxygen. The Brazilian Public Health System (acronym in Portuguese, SUS) was challenged in many ways as one of the major health systems in the world and also with one of the worst governments in our history. When the pandemic arrived in Brazil, we had heavy financial cuts in our system and were also really fragile to fight the pandemic and a disinfodemic.

Before the vaccines were available, two sisters, Helena Petta and Ana Petta decided to do a risky thing: to document how the SUS was dealing with the pandemic. Helena had a baby just at the beginning of the pandemic and started to work from home, seeing patients online and discussing cases with students. However, it was a burden for her to listen to their colleagues and feel that she was doing nothing, so she decided to start recording some testimonies. She shared some ideas with her sister Ana, an actress, and they decided to document the pandemic through the routine of the health system with a highlight on Primary Care and the role of family doctors.

It is not the first time the Petta sisters picture Primary Care on screen. They are also responsible for the recognised Brazilian medical TV Series “Basic Unit” (Unidade Básica, in Portuguese), which story focuses on a Primary Health Care team. In December of this year, they finished shooting the third season about the pandemic in Primary Healthcare.

The “Out of Breath” (Quando falta o ar, in Portuguese) movie includes scenes of prisons, “favelas” (slums) and ICUs. It tells the story of the frontline, mainly through the female healthcare workforce. It does not look like a traditional documentary with different people talking about an issue in front of a camera. The film truly follows the routine of community healthcare workers, the steps of patients recovering from COVID-19, and the tears and challenges of living in a necropolitical environment. The documentary is a masterpiece. The soundtrack, camera movements, and sound capture are flawless, and it is easy to start to cry just with the trailer.

Imagine the challenge and responsibility to bring the technical team over ten thousand kilometres crossing the country from southeast to north, from São Paulo to remote Amazon. “Out of Breath” is a precious memory for all the world. And we, as family doctors, should not miss the opportunity to watch and support this art piece.

Health team dislocating in Amazon. Image credits: Tarso Sarraf

Ana Petta and Helena Petta behind the scenes. Image credits: Victor Juca

The filmmakers Helena and Ana are doing an organic campaign about the documentary due to financial constraints, as we could expect of a small production. However, because of its sensible narrative, on December 6th, Out of Breath was shortlisted as one of the 145 incredible movies competing for this year’s Oscars edition.

I have personally been involved, trying to raise the promotion of the movie through the hashtag #SUSnoOSCAR (Portuguese) or #SUSatOSCAR. So I truly recommend all family doctors and health professionals of the world to join this campaign and use our social media to make this movie reach the final list of Oscars.

Movie director and actor Wagner Moura with the hashtag #SUSnoOSCAR

Mayara Floss and the hashtag #SUSnoOSCAR or #SUSatOSCAR

The documentary beign short-listed for the Oscars represents a reward for us, as frontline health professionals and survivors of one of the worst political management of the pandemic in the globe. It also has a powerful meaning of art: we survived, and we won't forget the scars and teachings of the COVID-19 pandemic. And surely, the movie's message will always remind us of the importance of a health system for all, everywhere in the world.  

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Women in the frontline are one of the highlights of the documentary Out of Breath. Scene with Conceição, a community health worker. Image credits: Victor Juca