Film Brings Children’s HeartLink Stories to Life

by Faith Adams, Communications Director

Capturing the stories of patients and families who are touched by Children’s HeartLink’s work is one of the challenges of an international organization whose work stretches around the globe. Finding and sharing these stories is a challenge of distance, language and culture.

At Children’s HeartLink, we are fortunate to benefit from the power of film to help tell our stories.

Filmmaker Ben Niles of Plow Productions won an award for The Heart of Phuc, a short film he made for us in 2013. Last month Ben traveled with Children’s HeartLink once again—this time to Kochi, India. With the help of our In-Country India Consultant Veera Rajasekhar, and Rajiv Rajendran, Ajith Kumar and Arun Murukesh from the audiovisual department at our partner hospital Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS), Ben spent five days filming the story of a two-year-old girl named Rifa and her family.

Rifa was born with a heart defect, and she had corrective surgery while Ben was in India. Rifa’s parents invited him into their home and into the hospital with them. Ben’s short film about Rifa will premiere at the HeartLink Gala on November 15.

“Children’s HeartLink has a truly inspiring story,” says Ben. “And I feel lucky that I get to help tell that story. I get to film remarkable people doing remarkable work in the hospitals that partner with Children’s HeartLink. At AIMS I was fortunate to have wonderful help from the hospital’s AV department. Rajiv, Ajith and Arun were always by my side, helping me in every way and making my job easier.”

Ben loves film for many reasons, especially the way it captures universal emotions. “You can tell a story through words, but you can tell it most powerfully through film,” he says. “When you see the emotion on a person’s face—like when Rifa’s mother first sees all of the staff in surgical gear, or when Rifa’s father is shaking the surgeon’s hand for a very long time—you as the viewer can’t help but identify with that. Even if you don’t have a sick child, you can identify with the strength of feeling these parents have for a loved one.”

It’s the immediacy of film that lends itself to powerful storytelling. And in the case of a documentary, the story that unfolds is not scripted—just like life itself.