The movement to eradicate the polio virus was losing steam because it had been going on for so long.
How did you come to this subject, and why did you want to tell this story?
Dr. Larry Brilliant, who is the head of the philanthropic arm of Google, was part of a 1970s mission to eradicate smallpox, which is the only virus that we've ever been able to eradicate, as in truly wipe off the face of the earth. Polio, on the other hand, is one that public-health workers have been trying to eradicate now for 20 years.
Larry felt they needed a push. The movement to eradicate the polio virus was losing steam because it had been going on for so long. The workers were getting tired and discouraged, and the public was getting skeptical and cynical about it. And those of us in the western countries had just completely forgotten about the disease.
So he asked me if I'd be interested in investigating. Once I did, I realized there was this enormous untapped story that was very much worth telling and, cinematically, would be a great opportunity.
The Oscar nomination was an enormous boon to these people. Because it let them know that the world is watching what they're doing. And that they care. And that we haven't forgotten about this disease.
And this problem isn't limited to India, is it?
As long as the virus exists anywhere in the world, no one is safe. Because it may not be within our borders right now, but all it takes is one person, flying in on an airplane, driving in on a bus, walking over the border, you name it, that's all it takes. When I came back from two months in India, I felt I had an ethical and a civic responsibility to vaccinate my children. If I do not vaccinate my child, I'm creating a safe harbor for many viruses, including polio, to live. One of the morals of this story is for social change to occur from within, as opposed to coming in from the outside and being imposed on a community.
What can people do to help the cause of eradicating the polio virus?
Well, practically speaking, we need more money. And I think most of all what we need is to encourage the health workers and let them know that we support them, we're on their side, and that the eyes of the world are watching them, and are proud of this amazing accomplishment they're doing. Because in the world of public health, eradicating the virus is beyond challenging; it's forever. You're doing something that is forever going to alter human history. All those children who are not going to be crippled, are not going to be a burden on the society and their families. And, so the Oscar® nomination was an enormous boon to these people. Because it let them know that the world is watching what they're doing. And that they care. And that we haven't forgotten about this disease.