As one of the three countries still grappling with endemic polio, Pakistan alone accounts for more than 80% of the world’s infections. Filmmaker Tom Roberts’ documentary, “Every Last Child,” follows the often perilous campaign to administer polio vaccine in a country where the Taliban has forbidden it since 2012. Vaccinators and police escorts risk becoming assassination targets.
The film couldn’t be more timely and germane for the American audience. If it weren’t a documentary, it would seem like a post-apocalyptic allegory of our own vaccination debate.
The Taliban’s mandate aside, conspiracy theories about the vaccine run rampant. Some Pakistani interviewees believe that the West is plotting to cause premature puberty among girls and impotence among boys by supplying it and that the health workers going from door to door are spies. Those deadly U.S. drone attacks only add fuel to their mistrust of the West.
Ali Faisal Zaidi’s picturesque cinematography and Nitin Sawhney’s lush score stand out but are not remotely intrusive or manipulative. The intermittent English spoken — particularly by Babar bin Atta, a public-relations consultant for the World Health Organization — does raise questions about subjects performing for the camera. Still, the testimonial from a resolute health worker and the travails of a polio-afflicted paraplegic are indisputably powerful.
“Every Last Child”
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle’s Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.