Behind ODESZA’s “Sun Models” music video

It is the 30th of October of 2014 and I am standing with a drone flying above my head, accompanied by three heavily armed military men, one United Nations security advisor, five international filmmakers, seven actors and a four-month-old baby called Patricia. Dozens of people are taking pictures with their cellphones…. I close my eyes and I ask to myself: how did I arrive here?

I feel like I am on a film set in Los Angeles and a Hollywood cinematographer myself, but this is Moundou, southern Chad, and I work for UNICEF. The drone is actually filming a beautiful sunset scene; the military men are controlling the amused crowd; the security person is a colleague; and Patricia, the baby, is the main actress of the story.

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L: Menodji Gloria plays the role of baby Patricia’s mother. R: Emile Fitikissou and baby Patricia. Both are father and daughter on and off screen. ©UNICEF Chad/2014/Manuel Moreno

So, what does this have to do with the work of UNICEF?

Moundou is a beautiful sunny green town located about 400 kilometers south of Chad’s capital, N’Djamena. It was chosen for the filming of the music video produced by UNICEF Chad in collaboration with American electronic music duo ODESZA. The video aims to illuminate a critical step in achieving an AIDS-free generation: expanding access to HIV treatment for pregnant women.

The song chosen was ODESZA´s “Sun Models” and its duo, Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight, were fully on board since the conception of the project.

It is commonly known that music can inspire people. This project was born from this specific idea: if music is accompanied by a moving story, with a message of hope, the final product could be the catalyst to reach individuals, news media, political figures, the international community and donors to focus more on an issue.

 

A clear message: children born to HIV-positive mothers can be HIV-free
The world has what is needed to eliminate the transmission of the virus from mother-to-child and achieve an AIDS-free generation. New HIV infections among children in high-income countries is virtually zero, but according to UNICEF´s 2014 Statistical Update on Children, Adolescents and AIDS, despite great progress, a child is born with HIV every two minutes.

So what are we missing? Where are we failing? Why, in low-income countries such as Chad, is the prevalence of babies born HIV-positive so high?

In the past few years, Chad has shown great commitment in the expansion of programmes that keep women living with HIV alive and effectively prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The coverage in health facilities offering these services has tripled since 2012 and, as a result, more than two thousand babies were born free of HIV in 2013. However, 10,000 pregnant women living with HIV are still left without treatment and support in the country.

Filming the market scene argument for ODESZA´s Music Video on PMTCT.
Filming the market scene for ODESZA´s music video on PMTCT. ©UNICEF Chad/2014/Manuel Moreno

So, we know what works – but so much more needs to be done. How does the video fit into all of this?

For starters, the video will serve as an advocacy tool for the First Lady of the Republic of Chad and current President of the Organisation of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA), and it will be presented during the upcoming Summit of the African Union, which will be held on the 28th of January 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Thanks to this initiative, the video could spark greater discussion among high level political leaders and hopefully pave a pathway to reinforce planning of national and regional HIV strategies and policies to keep babies HIV-free and their mothers alive.

Since its launch on the 1st of December, marking this year’s World AIDS Day, the music video has reached over 2,3 million people through social media channels and it has been praised for being inspiring and beautiful by the press within the music world. The video is also a good entryway to engage young people globally who may not know about PMTCT or  the work of UNICEF.

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