Body Team 12 tells the story of the courageous battle to stop Ebola in Liberia
Almost five thousand Liberians were killed in the outbreak of Ebola that decimated parts of West Africa beginning in 2014.
The toll could have been much higher without the bravery of people like Garmai Sumo.
Sumo, a "body collector" charged with gathering the corpses of Ebola victims, is the main character in Body Team 12 directed by David Darg. The film just made the Academy's shortlist of 10 titles that will compete for the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject.
I was immediately inspired by [Sumo] -- by her fearlessness, determination and love for her community.
Actress Olivia Wilde and billionaire philanthropist Paul Allen executive produced the short, which runs 13-minutes.
Wilde, born Olivia Jane Cockburn, is the daughter of documentary filmmakers and journalists Leslie and Andrew Cockburn (American Casino).
Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates, pledged $100 mil. to help stop the Ebola outbreak, funding "everything from protective medical gear to self-contained modules that can be used to airlift infected medical workers," according to an October third article in the Seattle Times.
In addition to being a filmmaker, Darg is an aid worker and "first responder" to international disasters like the Ebola crisis.
In a statement describing Body Team 12, Darg wrote, "While this was my most dangerous project, it was also the most fulfilling. It was the perfect avenue to not only break the stigma and misconception surrounding viral epidemics like Ebola, but also to inspire others to volunteer in tough situations."
Tough situation is an understatement, of course, when it comes to the Ebola epidemic. The film shows how difficult it was for Sumo and the other members of the body teams to contend with grief-stricken relatives of Ebola victims, many of whom initially refused to surrender the bodies of loved ones knowing that if they did they would have no remains to bury.
Sumo was part medical worker, part grief counselor who had to convince families that the best way to contain the epidemic was to properly dispose of bodies.
"Garmai, and the brave body teams, are the behind the scenes heroes of the epidemic, selflessly risking their lives for the sake of their country," Darg wrote in a director's statement. "I knew I needed to tell this story as a tribute to their courage."
Along with Body Team 12 these are the films that made the Oscar short list:
“Chau, beyond the Lines,” Cynasty Films
“Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah,” Jet Black Iris America
“50 Feet from Syria,” Spin Film
“A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness,” SOC Films
“Last Day of Freedom,” Living Condition
“Minerita,” Kanaki Films
“My Enemy, My Brother,” Fathom Film Group
“Starting Point,” Munk Studio – Polish Filmmakers Association
“The Testimony,” Atria Film in association with Escape Artists
The nominations for the 88th Annual Academy Awards will be announced Thursday, January 14, 2016. The Oscar ceremony will be held six weeks later, on February 28.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.