A Unified Presence

Caring: Asheville filmmakers Dylan and Melanie Trivette premier their documentary, A Unified Presence, on Oct. 15. The project follows six Asheville health workers on a mission in Zambia.
Caring: Asheville filmmakers Dylan and Melanie Trivette premier their documentary, A Unified Presence, on Oct. 15. The project follows six Asheville health workers on a mission in Zambia.

Emmy Award-winning Trivette Images — founded by Asheville husband-and-wife team Dylan and Melanie Trivette — strives to dismantle stigmas with its recent film, A Unified Presence. “Documentaries are associated with handheld cameras and talking heads,” says Dylan. “But they can be cinematic.” They can also tell compelling stories.

The film follows six health workers from Asheville on a journey through Zambia as they visit four districts and see thousands of patients, hoping to assist and educate Zambian healthcare workers.

The Trivettes share producing and editing credits in the project: Dylan handles the cinematography; Melanie records audio and acts as interviewer. “Before the trip I had little knowledge of what palliative care was,” Melanie admits. “During the 18 days filming, I witnessed American and Zambian physicians, nurses and caregivers administering to a patient's physical, mental, social and spiritual needs. I learned firsthand that compassion needs no translation.”

The film tackles a subject many Americans avoid: the process of death, or, more accurately, end-of-life care. Palliative care focuses on providing relief from symptoms, pain and stress of a serious illness regardless of prognosis. The goal is to improve the quality of life of the patient and the family.

The project was the first face-to-face liaison between Four Seasons Compassion for Life, a nonprofit based in Flat Rock with 30 years experience, and Palliative Care Association of Zambia. The partnership began in 2011 through the Foundation for Hospices in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Four Seasons reports that Zambia has been hit hard with the HIV/AIDS epidemic, has the second-highest rate of cervical cancer in the world, and that Zambian health workers lack training, education and access to medications. “It costs about $8000 to train one Zambian doctor,” Dylan says.

The film premier will include a reception with wine, beer and appetizers, as well as a conversation with filmmakers and representatives from Four Seasons. All proceeds go toward training doctors and nurses in Zambia.

“What was most amazing was how intelligent and compassionate the Zambians are,” Dylan says, “They’re not looking for a handout. They want to dictate their own fate, but they need training.” According to Four Seasons, Zambia has only 780 doctors compared to North Carolina, which has more than 22,300, despite having a similar in population.

“Each one of us is on a journey toward the end of our life,” Dylan observes. “What we do to support palliative care will eventually come back around to support us all.”

What: Documentary Film Premiere: A Unified Presence

Where: Asheville Community Theater, 35 E Walnut St., Asheville

When: Tuesday Oct. 15, 6:30-9 p.m. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased online http://www.zambiafundraiser.com/, or at the door.

— Toni Sherwood is an Asheville-based writer.

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