The Final Inch
Preachy, but powerful documentary about the fight to eradicate polio in India and around the world.
The title comes from the Rule of the Final Inch by Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn, which states that one must not falter in the final effort toward one's goal of perfection. In this case, perfection would be a world in which polio no longer exists.
Even though vaccines have effectively banished the crippling disease from the Western world, it still crops up on densely populated areas with poor sanitation. Since 1988, the World Health Organization has assembled a "quiet army" of 20 million people, mostly volunteers.
The film follows a number of these workers as they go door-to-door in some of the poorest neighborhoods of India to administer the polio vaccine to children under age five. "Two drops to save a life" is their motto, but they face suspicion and opposition from the largely Muslim populace. One old man angrily refuses to give the vaccine to his grandchildren, since it comes from America and therefore he believes it to be evil.
Our main companion on this journey is Munzareen, a Muslim woman who travels in a burkha, talking to parents to convince them to let them administer the vaccine. One house they've visited six or seven times, until they are finally successful.
Director Irene Taylor Brodsky adds some powerful scenes of Martha and Mikail, two older Americans who suffer from polio and offer testimonials on the importance of immunizing children abroad. But the film often lapses into public-service-message mode, and it feels less like enlightenment and more like lecturing. And at 38 minutes, the many depictions of adorable children receiving the two drops of medicine into their mouths grows repetitive.
Still, a worthwhile film about a terrible disease on which most of the West has turned its back.