Discovery Learning Alliance, Inc.

To use the power of television to provide information and support community development in under-resourced schools and communities around the world.
Nov 7, 2016

"The Lucky Specials": Power of Social Impact Media

Nurse treating TB patient in "The Lucky Specials"
Nurse treating TB patient in "The Lucky Specials"

Earlier this fall, world leaders gathered in New York City for the 71st United Nations General Assembly. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - which lay out a path toward a more equitable and sustainable future - were at the top of the agenda.

What if we could harness the power of today’s mass media - TV (on all types of screens), movies, radio, etc. - to advance the ambitious global agenda set forth in the SDGs?

Media has the power to shape the conversations in our minds, our families, and our communities. To be clear, this is not just about awareness-raising. That’s important, but media can do more. Generally speaking, businesswomen in Tokyo know AIDS has devastated communities and stay-at-home dads in Chicago know clean water is an unmet need in much of the world. We can create and distribute media that can change the conversation, but also shift individual behavior and excite community action.

To be sure, this is already happening. There are exciting examples of media being used to make communities healthier, classrooms more dynamic and societies more just.

MTVShuga is a TV drama increasing responsible sexual behavior in several countries across Africa.

Satyamev Jayate is an Indian TV talk show that provides solutions to social issues like child sexual abuse, alcoholism and domestic violence.

And this year, we made a Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment to Action to write, produce, and distribute a scripted, feature film, The Lucky Specials.

Most people have heard about TB but few people know much about it. How do you inform the public about a familiar disease in a fresh, new way? And how do you reach an audience that varies from the hyper connected urbanite to the remote villager?  It’s taken a community of organizations – MSH, DLA, Quizzical Pictures, HHMI Wellcome Trust and USAID/PEPFAR to produce “The Lucky Specials,” which will help audiences in southern Africa better understand and respond to tuberculosis, empowering individuals to make informed decisions about their health.

There has never been a better time for media to change the world, particularly with the continued proliferation of smart phones and connectivity in the developing world and continued organic growth of free-to-air and pay-TV in emerging markets.

If we make the most of visual storytelling as a tool for development and social justice, we can take a giant leap toward meeting the SDGs.

Jul 7, 2016

Learn How "The Lucky Specials" Can Impact Audiences, Giving Crucial Health Information about TB

The Lucky Specials Perform
The Lucky Specials Perform

Here is a great article that was published about our upcoming film, that puts the whole project in context, showing how "The Lucky Specials" can really impact millions of people potentially affected by tuberculosis.

A MUSICAL MESSAGE: Delivering Lifesaving TB Information Through Music & Film

Photos and Story by Holly Powers of USAID/Southern Africa

“MUSIC EXPRESSES THAT WHICH CANNOT BE PUT INTO WORDS AND THAT WHICH CANNOT REMAIN SILENT” - VICTOR HUGO

It is not a new concept for people to use music to share information. Throughout history, music has been used to discuss love, war, famine, disease, violence, and many other issues that affect the globe. Music breaks down barriers, brings people together and allows issues to be discussed in an informal way.

Music often gets through to people in a way that words alone cannot; it tells a story while its rhythm touches your soul.

TRANSCENDING BOUNDARIES

Playing on our human interest in music, film, soccer, and dance is not new. In every part of the globe, these things can be used to engage communities, but in the developing world, where day-to-day struggles often out-weigh fun and enjoyment, leveraging these human passions can employ change in a powerful way.

THE INSIDE STORY

In 2012, Discovery Learning Alliance partnered with USAID, PEFPAR, Chevron, Access Bank, Quizzical Pictures and others to address the fight against HIV through a full-length, award-winning feature film, “Inside Story.” The story was about coming-of-age, romance, focused on football (soccer), and full of educational information about HIV/AIDS and how to protect oneself.

“It’s a fascinating marriage of fiction and non-fiction, a live action story and animated science coming together that in a way is almost a new film genre. It worked with ‘Inside Story,’ so we wanted to, with USAID’s leadership, take that approach and apply it to TB.”
- Aric Noboa (President & Executive Producer of Discovery Learning Alliance)

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER

Everyone knows the danger of HIV/AIDS and has for decades, but that common knowledge is not the same when it comes to tuberculosis (TB). It has often lived in the shadow of HIV, yet it kills more people and can be curable. It is an airborne respiratory illness that is contagious and can be passed from person to person without any physical contact.

TB is the number one killer in South Africa.

In 2014, 9.6 million people worldwide were infected with TB, with 1.5 million of them dying. What people don’t often realize is that it is treatable and curable.

EDUCATION CHANGES EVERYTHING

To this day, “Inside Story” is the most watched movie in Africa having been broadcast to more than 330 million people.

After the success of “Inside Story,” USAID felt it made sense to create a similar story that discusses TB. With the incredible reach of a feature film in mind, USAID and Discovery Learning Alliance partnered to create a new film project.

This latest film has been made through a partnership between USAID, PEPFAR, Discovery Learning Alliance, Quizzical Pictures, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Wellcome Trust, and Management Sciences for Health. Filming of “The Lucky Specials” recently wrapped in South Africa. It is expected to make its public debut before the end of the year.

“Film has immense power to convey messages in a compelling and memorable way, something that other media cannot replicate. ‘Inside Story’ was a groundbreaking concept, combining entertainment and science to help individuals make informed health decisions, and ‘The Lucky Specials’ is the next phase of that model.”
- Harriet Gavshon, producer of “The Lucky Specials”

SEEING IS BELIEVING

The “Lucky Specials” are a small-time cover band in a small mining town in the middle of nowhere, fronted by Maskandi guitarist Mandla, a young gold miner who aspires to make it big in the music business. But when Mandla contracts TB from his mentor, his impatience keeps him from completing the arduous course of medication. Focusing more on his music than his health, he contracts a frightening drug-resistant strain of the disease. Using the same technique of intercutting a live action story with animation showing what’s going on inside the protagonist’s body, the film makers demystify TB, which is devastating communities across Southern Africa. 

HIGH HOPES

The Lucky Specials will be released later this year with great anticipation and tremendous ambitions. This film has everything it needs to be a success.

The goal for “The Lucky Specials” is to have even broader and quicker distribution than “Inside Story” and to surpass “Inside Story” as the most watched movie in Africa of all time. “Inside Story” surpassed Avatar, Spider Man 2 and Titanic in large part due to a distribution strategy which incorporated free-to-air networks with theatric, pay TV and DVD distribution. 

If “Inside Story” is any indication of the reach and impact that is possible with film, then “The Lucky Specials” will impart lifesaving information to hundreds of millions throughout Africa.

To find out more about the upcoming film go to www.luckyspecials.com

Visiting a Friend in the Hospital
Visiting a Friend in the Hospital
Behind the Scenes
Behind the Scenes

Links:

Mar 31, 2016

"The Lucky Specials" Announced!

The Lucky Specials Performing
The Lucky Specials Performing

New Movie Takes Viewers On Musical Journey, From A Mine Shaft To Center Stage

After Highly Successful Film on HIV, Producers Come Together to Engage Millions in sub-Saharan Africa around Tuberculosis

From the producers of “Inside Story” comes a new feature-length film, THE LUCKY SPECIALS, combining the best of fiction and non-fiction storytelling to demystify tuberculosis (TB), explaining how it spreads and how it can be treated. Produced by Discovery Learning Alliance and Quizzical Pictures in association with Tangled Bank Studios with support from Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), the Wellcome Trust, and USAID and PEPFAR through the Leadership, Management & Governance Project, led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH), THE LUCKY SPECIALS will entertain and educate audiences across sub-Saharan Africa, while empowering communities to make informed decisions about their health. The film will also be a Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment to Action helping audiences across the African continent understand and respond to TB. World Tuberculosis Day is March 24.

THE LUCKY SPECIALS begins in the dark, wet mining shafts of southern Africa, where rock dust and cramped quarters expose workers to various risks. Like HIV, TB is devastating communities across southern Africa in settings like this and others. TB kills more than one million people every year around the world and continues to be the leading cause of death among people living with HIV. Here, audiences will meet Mandla, a young man eager to make his mark on African music, played by Oros Mampofu. Other cast members include Blondie Makhene, Sivenathi Mabuya, Richard Lukunku, Thomas Gumede and Fulu Mugovhani; the film is directed by Rea Rangaka.

Through dynamic characters and a captivating storyline, THE LUCKY SPECIALS replaces misconceptions about TB with facts and shows the journey of TB bacteria inside the body through state-of-the-art animation. By making the film personal, practical and memorable, audiences will retain critical health information in a context that reflects southern African life and values.

"This movie is an unprecedented opportunity to shape how millions of people see, understand and respond to tuberculosis,” said Aric Noboa, president and executive producer of Discovery Learning Alliance. “We’re thrilled to be back to produce another film with Quizzical Pictures and honored to work with these world-class partners to entertain audiences while at the same time re-shaping the public dialogue around TB.”

"Innovative thinking and partnerships are crucial to effectively addressing global health challenges," said Ambassador Deborah L. Birx, M.D., U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy. "'The Lucky Specials' reimagines how to deliver lifesaving information about TB and HIV to affected communities, empowering individuals to make better informed health decisions.  This unique approach transports us to the heart of local communities, which hold the power to help bring life-saving treatment to HIV-TB co-infected patients and, ultimately, achieve an AIDS-free generation."

“HHMI is very excited to join with such great partners to help spread knowledge about TB,” said Dr. Robert Tjian, president of HHMI. “HHMI has a special interest in improving the understanding and treatment of TB in southern Africa. We formed the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for TB and HIV (K-RITH) as a special joint project between HHMI and the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa specifically to combat the twin devastating scourges of TB and HIV.”

“Drug-resistant TB is a major health concern for people living in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Dr. Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust. “The need for research into the treatment and prevention of TB, as well as global awareness of the crisis of drug-resistant infection, has never been greater. I hope this film will play an important role in encouraging discussions and increasing understanding of the reality of living with TB, by providing a gripping personal story which explores the impact of the disease. Building on the success of ‘Inside Story,’ this film will not only bring the science to life, but also offer a relevant and engaging drama to a young mass audience.”

“Through MSH’s extensive work with TB over the years, we have seen the damaging role of stigma along with the urgent need for increased TB awareness. This film is a novel step to reach people with critical information in a time when it is more important than ever,” said Dr. Jonathan Quick, president and CEO of MSH. “Through partnerships like this one, and by continuing to implement critical interventions, we can together take huge steps to end TB.”

“Discovery continues to invest in the region and is pleased to bring informative African content to audiences across the continent and beyond,” said Doug Baker, COO & CFO, Discovery Networks International. “This is our knowledge brand at its best.”

“Inside Story,” Discovery Learning Alliance’s first feature film, is the most widely broadcast film ever in Africa, having reached more than 400 million people across the continent. “Inside Story” was developed to combat two significant challenges in HIV prevention and treatment: misunderstanding about how HIV works (the science), and HIV message fatigue. Like “Inside Story,” THE LUCKY SPECIALS will offer audiences an unforgettable experience, transporting them to a vibrant inner world where hard-to-grasp science is transformed into a compelling visual reality.

A comprehensive rollout of THE LUCKY SPECIALS will include theatrical film screenings, national television broadcasts and grassroots distribution by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), schools, and governments. Facilitator guides and educational materials are being developed for community and public health organizations and schools to help reinforce messages. A dedicated website will help expand the reach of film content to online audiences.

For more information about the film, visit www.luckyspecials.com.

 

About Discovery Learning Alliance
Discovery Learning Alliance (DLA) uses the power of media to transform education and improve lives in marginalized communities around the world. DLA has opened new doors to learning in 16 countries. Its school-based interventions increase student retention, enrollment, attendance and learning, and importantly – student motivation. By building the capacity of teachers, DLA’s approach transforms classrooms and communities. DLA’s mass media initiatives address critical education, development and public health issues for tens of millions of people in the developing world. Through innovation and partnership, DLA empowers teachers, students and communities to achieve their full potential, because education changes everything. For more information, visit www.discoverylearningalliance.org.

About Quizzical Pictures

Quizzical Pictures is a leading South African production house. With awards ranging from the Peabody, the Rose D’Or to numerous local awards, Quizzical Pictures has a reputation for creating drama which combines great storytelling with a social impact. We have created numerous features and series that not only entertain but impact our society for the good: “Inside Story”; “The Science of HIV and AIDS” and “Intersexions” changed perceptions and raised awareness around HIV/AIDS. Our new feature, in collaboration with Discovery Learning Alliance, hopes to do the same for TB. For more information, visit www.quizzical.co.za.

About the Howard Hughes Medical Institute

HHMI plays an influential role in advancing scientific research and education in the United States. Its scientists, located across the United States and around the world, have made important discoveries that advance both human health and our fundamental understanding of biology. The Institute also aims to transform science education into a creative, interdisciplinary endeavor that reflects the excitement of real research. For more information, please visit www.hhmi.org.

About HHMI Tangled Bank Studios

Tangled Bank Studios is a production company established and funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute as an extension of its longstanding science education mission. Dedicated to the creation of original science documentaries for broadcast, theatrical and digital distribution, the company’s award-winning programs address important contemporary issues and capture compelling stories of discovery across all branches of scientific inquiry. For more information, please visit www.tangledbankstudios.org.

About the Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health. They support bright minds in science, the humanities and the social sciences, as well as education, public engagement and the application of research to medicine. For more information, visit www.wellcome.ac.uk.

About Management Sciences for Health and the Leadership, Management & Governance Project

Management Sciences for Health (MSH) is a global nonprofit organization that works to save lives by closing the gap between knowledge and action in public health. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Leadership, Management & Governance (LMG) Project, led by MSH, strengthens health systems to deliver more responsive services to more people. The LMG Project builds on 30 years of the best thinking and practices from organizational development to empower health leaders, managers, and teams to meet and master their most pressing challenges. The LMG Project is funded by the USAID Regional HIV/AIDS Program and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) under Cooperative Agreement OAA-11-00015. For more information, visit www.LMGforHealth.org.

About Discovery Communications

Discovery Communications (Nasdaq: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK) is the leader in global entertainment reaching 3 billion cumulative viewers in more than 220 countries and territories. Discovery satisfies curiosity, entertains and inspires viewers with high-quality content through global brands, led by Discovery Channel, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Animal Planet, Science and Turbo/Velocity, as well as U.S. joint venture network OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, and through the Discovery Digital Networks portfolio, including Seeker and SourceFed. Discovery owns Eurosport, the leading pan-regional sports entertainment destination across Europe and Asia-Pacific. Discovery also is a leading provider of educational products and services to schools, including an award-winning series of K-12 digital textbooks, through Discovery Education. For more information, please visit www.discoverycommunications.com.

Oros Mampofu plays Mandla
Oros Mampofu plays Mandla

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