Unhooking the Hookworm: The Making and Uses of a Public Health Film

by James Burns

Jan 1, 2009
In 1920 the International Health Division of the Rockefeller Foundation produced a film that would introduce tens of thousands of people throughout the world to the medium of the cinema. Unhooking the Hookworm was intended to teach rural peoples how to rid themselves of the Ankylostomiasis parasite, and to prevent its spread in their communities. This was one of the first educational films to be intended for audiences in what would come to be known as the "developing" world. In this respect, it is the ancestor of the public health films that are still produced and distributed by Non-Governmental Organizations throughout Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Rockefeller officials appear to have been unaware that they were pioneers in a global movement to bring cinema to rural peoples. Yet their film, Unhooking the Hookworm, would establish precedents for didactic film-making that shaped documentary film-making in Asia and Africa for a generation.
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