The artists behind the FACING AN EPIDEMIC collaboration are producing a narrative documentary film intimately capturing the collaboration between activists, researchers, governments and companies working together, and sometimes against one another, in confronting the Chronic Kidney Disease of non-Traditional causes (CKDnT) epidemic killing agricultural workers in mass globally.
"ZAFRA" begins in the scorching sugarcane fields of Bajo Lempa, El Salvador. In 1998 a Salvadorian doctor began tirelessly researching a mysterious kidney disease. The gravity of his work was ignored by the medical community until an American activist discovered his research to support an innovative worker health intervention. In response a sugar mill owner takes a controversial leap of faith by opening his operations to act as a laboratory for industry change. However, it’s up to sprightly work captains to maneuver between the two worlds of skeptical workers and corporate demand as the team strives to integrate new labor practices that could save lives.
But in the slums of Western Nicaragua, two young workers, sick with CKDnT struggle to feed their families and stay alive. One feels resigned to die working in the fields like his father. The other, determined to bring light to the epidemic, lays down his machete after being fired due to his disease and dons a camera to document the community's protests.
This disease has claimed at least 20,000 lives in Nicaragua and El Salvador since the start of the millennium. However, the threat may be global. Researchers continue to advance their understanding of the disease in India, believing it could be caused by global warming. “Global-warming nephropathy” as it may become known, could mean the end of human involvement in industrialized food production or continued mass exploitation. Laborers continue to toil in the rising heat as the globally-minded from all walks of life race for solutions.