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July 15th, 2008
Birth of a Surgeon
Video: Filmmaker Notes

Interview with Filmmakers Karin Falck and Loui Bernal about the making of Birth of a Surgeon.

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KARIN FALCK: Hi! My name is Karin Falck and I’m the director of the documentary Birth of a Surgeon.

LOUI BERNAL: And my name is Loui Bernal. I am the Producer and D.O.P of this film.

KARIN FALCK: Why did we, a documentary film team from Sweden want to make a film about Emilia?

LOUI BERNAL: Living in Africa, on the other side of the planet, over 5000 miles away from our home.

KARIN FALCK: In 2005, it all started when I wanted to make a film about the Swedish midwife and why she plays such an important role in the delivery room. Two hundred years ago Sweden had the same situation as Mozambique has today – poverty and extreme high maternal mortality. Sweden is a country with vast rural areas, and, at that time we had few doctors. So to help the mothers the government established a training where the midwives learned to use instruments and how to work independently with no doctors present. These skilled midwives became the backbone in fighting maternal mortality. And today, Sweden is one of the safest countries in the world for mothers to give birth.

In my research, I met Dr. Staffan Bergström at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. And he told me how Mozambique is starting a unique education for midwives now. And compared to Sweden they are taking it even further — educating midwives in advanced surgery! Staffan also told me about Emilia Cumbane, one of the women attending this education. I thought, this was intriguing news from Africa! This is a story worth telling!

LOUI BERNAL: Our research and planning started three years ago. We developed the idea within an international training program called Discovery Campus Masterschool. A year later we went to Mozambique for the first time.

KARIN FALCK: Dr. Staffan Bergström helped us, giving us advice and he even traveled with us to Mozambique. And with no financing, the trip was rather adventurous.

We saw Emilia performing her very first Caesarian section. We had been told no broadcaster would ever be interested in a film like this about poor women in Africa. But the images we came back with changed people’s minds.

LOUI BERNAL: My strongest memory is from the Manjacaze hospital. The health staff workers there under such poor conditions but performed so well.

KARIN FALCK: This education will change many things in Mozambique, maybe not only the maternity care. Many times along the way, I many times doubted we would make this film. And without support from Peter Symes at Discover Campus Masterschool, or Dr. Staffan Bergström and Dr. Fernando Vaz in Maputo – it wouldn’t have been possible! Thank you very much! This film is an expression of love to Emilia and all people working by her side with very scarce resources!

  • Marjorie Noonsong

    I was so touched by your story on “Birth of a Surgeon”. After a Peace Corp experience working with midwives in Brazil in the mis 60’s, I wanted to be a midwife. My dream was never realized, but i have so much respect for the profession and commitment of those women. Even still, I love to hear stories about birth–the miracle of it all! I loved hearing the personal dialog of Emilia Cumbane and felt an immense admiration for her sacrifice to study and learn and her deep commitment to the women she served. I would love to send a personal congradulation-even if it would be in less than intact Portuguese. Can

  • Marianne Sammartano

    I would like to make a donation to the Manjacaze Hospital. I was struck by the poor conditions and lack of resources there. However, the compassion and love which was given to the patients was uplifting. Is it possible to make a donation directly to the hospital?

  • lindsey

    Karin Falck said it all- This story is worth telling! Karin and Loui did a wonderful job.
    I think that it would have been good to include in the film a bit of the Swedish maternal child health history.

  • Ben

    Is there a way to help get supplies to the Manjacaze hospital?

  • Chris J

    In the same vein as Marianne Sammartano, I would also like to share some my good fortune with the people providing such a great service. If not the particular hospital featured in the program another hospital providing similar service? Any feedback on how to donate to the hospital would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

  • Brad Deitz

    Brad Says:I would like to know the same thing as Marianne and Ben. Is there a way to donate to this hospital?

  • Rebecca

    I was so moved by this story and would love to donate to the hospital as well. Please post donation information on this site for everyone. Thank you for telling this story!

  • Linda Wheeler

    One of the best documentaries I have seen. I went to bed with the Manjacaze hospital on my mind. I am wanting to purchase an electric generator for their C-section building. Please let me know how this can be done!

  • Damon Martin

    I would like to donate a generator to the hospital. Please let me know the phone number to the shows producer, or directly to the hospital. thanks

  • Nan

    I am so THRILLED to see that numerous other people were inspired in the same way as I by this program. Please let us know how we can assist with the generator, with supporting the teaching program, or through the donation of other supplies such as gloves.

  • Judith

    I felt so moved by the story and especially about the conditions in the Manjacaze hospital. I feel fortunate with the kind of medical care that is available here in the US.
    I would love to help and send gloves and whatever else is needed to the doctor there. If you could please provide me with more information/ the address of the hospital?

    Thank you!

  • Linda

    I would like to make a contribution to the hospital to help them improve conditions.
    What is the best way to accomplish this?

  • Cindy

    I looked everywhere to no avail to find where to send donations directly to these good people who need supplies so desparately.

  • hilary anderson

    My daughter now a grad student in the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University used to work at Direct Relief International who deliver direct aid in medical assistance to countries in need. You may be interested to look at their website if you cannot donate directly to the Manjacaze

  • Judith

    Thank you so much for posting the address of the hospital again. I would still be interested to find out about the name of the Dr. that was a teacher to Emilia. Could you provide me with his name?

    Thank you.

  • Karin Falck&Loui Bernal

    With the help from you I would like to go back myself to Manjacaze and help the hospital install a new power backup. There is a lack of everything so we would have to bring the equipment ourselves. This has been on my mind ever since we filmed there and it would feel very good to help them. Maybe we could even film the process and show it too you on the web site.

  • Karin Falck

    We would love to help you get in touch with people in Mozambique and find a way to help you contribute! Get back to you soon about this!!! And Lindsay! I would love to tell you more about the Swedish midwife!!! Warm regards from Karon Falck and Sweden.

  • Cherie Tiffany

    To Karin Falck…many here would like to help financially, including myself after seeing your wonderful documentary…let us know! I loved your film and now have a bigger reason to like…you’re Swedes! My grandfather came over to America from Sweden in 1913 and till the day he died at age 96 (you’re TOUGH PEOPLE!!!) he still said it this way…”tank you” instead of “thank you”.

    for you both and for your film I say “tank you”!

  • M.B.

    Amazing! What a way to think outside the box. Would it be possible to send the class a congratulatory card upon their graduation?

  • Cecilia Gomez

    I see many of us were very moved by the film and inspired to do something. I actually wrote to the very kind Dr. Vaz and he sent me the information for a contact at the hospital. I have already sent a communication, but would love to hook up and help the progress if that makes more sense. As a new mom-to-be I was so moved by your film, thank you for bringing our attention to novel ways to address our world healthcare crisis.

  • Linda Wheeler

    Hi – I commented yesterday about wanting to purchase a generator for the Manjacaze Hospital, along with many others. Loui said he will get back to us, but in the meantime should we get organized here in the US? I suggest putting Skip Batley in charge. Let’s get organized and keep this going. If we let it drop, the good people at Manjacaze will never see a new generator. Loui said he is willing to get it there. Maybe we can fund the generator and Loui’s trip to the hospital. Just a thought. Linda Wheeler

  • Karin Falck&Loui Bernal

    It´s fantastic so many of you want to help!
    We have two suggestions;
    1. Purchase and delivery of equipment to the hospital
    The lack of materials is great in Mozambique. If you find something it’s probably totally overprized. Probably the best way would be to purchase equipment in some other country and bring it into Mozambique.
    The hospital of Manjacaze has electricity on and of. What they need is a power backup. Louis idea is to install an inverter, a bunch of car batteries, a charger and a switch. That way they will have a simple solution for the power backup easy to maintain. To do this we would also need the help of an authorized electrician. We the filmmakers can travel down there.
    We can take care of the arrangements and openly display to you on Wide Angles website how this proceeds! We would then be happy to get in contact with those of you who want to contribute in one way or another. We are sure the hospital of Manjacaze would appreciate help!!
    Please email us at;

    2. International education of nurses
    For those who want to contribute to the only advanced international course of ”non-physician clinicians” to save mothers lives we would recommend you to contact Dr. Staffan Bergström. Since 2006 he organizes an international education every year in Gotland, Sweden, that attracts more than 200 applicants from more than 30 countries (mainly Africa and Asia) each year, of whom they can admit merely 30.
    They cannot expand this course more at present due to insufficient financing but the need is great. Emilia Cumbane attended this education 2006. That’s were we, the filmmakers met her for the first time!!

    Please email Dr. Staffan Bergström at

  • paul

    My wife and I were so moved by the story of Manjacaze Hospital, and I am not suprised to see the interest on this site in helping with a generator purchase and the provision of supplies. We would like to donate to the effort to accomplish these goals once a central contact is established. Please post the contact information once it is established, either to donate directly to the hospital or to any organization for this purpose that might be forthcoming. Paul Teicher.

  • Scott Taylor

    I also would like to help this hospital receive supplies that it desperately needs.

  • Jenny Hannibal

    There are many wonderful organizations already doing excellent health care work in Mozambique – helping the people help themselves. Here’s a short (not comprehensive) list:

    VillageReach expands access to healthcare for remote, underserved communities by improving logistics and infrastructure support at the “last mile” segment of health systems. In Mozambique, VillageReach’s model strengthens the childhood vaccination program with monthly deliveries of vaccines, health worker training, and community education for 251 clinics serving a population of over 5 million people, covering an area larger than New York State.

    Health Alliance International (HAI) supports the development of equity-oriented policies and public-sector health systems. Their vision is a just world with universal access to quality health care.

    CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE has shifted their focus in Mozambique to long-term development projects in the areas of agriculture, water supply and sanitation, micro-credit and savings, and health and HIV/AIDS.

    Population Services International (PSI) is working to harness the vitality of the private sector to address the health problems of low-income and vulnerable populations in developing countries around the world. With programs in HIV/AIDS, malaria, child survival and reproductive health, PSI/Mozambique promotes products, services and behaviors that enable low-income and vulnerable populations to make informed choices and lead healthier lives.

    Family Health International (FHI) has a mission to improve lives worldwide through research, education, and services in family health. FHI/Mozambique’s activities include HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and support activities, palliative care, TB control, and PMTCT services.

    I work for VillageReach, and we were thrilled to see this film bring to light many of the issues we are trying to remedy. I urge you to research organizations that resonate with who you are and what you want to support. Kudos to the filmmakers and to PBS for shining a light on the issues.

  • karin Falck


    After Wide Angle broadcasted our film “Birth of a surgeon” we had so many people contacting us!
    Many wants to support the hospital of Manjacaze where the midwife Emilia was working during her education.
    We have done research on how to best contribute and we think rather than spreading gifts thin we should co ordinate the help.
    Our suggestion is to transfer money to the NGO (Non Governmental Organization) “Africa Groups” with headquarter in Stockholm. They have a strictly regulated charity account number – and they promised to openly display the money coming in for the hospital of Manjacaze.
    Depending on how much money we gather we will then contract a professional company for the money and let them do the installation of a turn key ready power backup. The Africa Groups also have a journalist stationed in Maputo and he promised to be present taking pictures of the installation.
    We keep you updated on how things are proceeding!!
    For those who want to help in practical matters – please email us at;

    Website for Africa Groups;

    Bank (Name and address); Nordea, Hamngatan 12, SE-105 71 Stockholm, Sweden
    Swiftcode: NDEASESS
    IBAN Se: 97 3000 0000 0300 1180 1271
    Bankaccount nr; 90 03 37-7.
    When transferring money you should mark it with “MANJACAZE”

    Karin C Falck & Loui Bernal

  • Tadd

    Dear Filmmakers,
    what a wonderful thing you did to get this amazing story out. Perhaps, it is a 2nd time that PBS aired this on July 15, 2009 when I first watched it.

    is the donation still ongoing? is there a DVD that is on sale on this particualr story?

    Keep up the great work!

  • Patricia Kral

    What a wonderful and inspiring story…….
    I Just saw the film “Birth of a surgeon” on the Dutch television.
    I was touched by Emilia and her collegeas.

    I really would like to donate directly to the hospital.
    Can you give me the account and /or email from the hospital for my donation?
    What do they need most en how can I help?

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