In January 2016, a Principal Magistrate in Meru Law Courts sentenced a 35-year-old man to six months in prison for refusing to take critical TB medicine.
The court in Kericho also ordered a 29-year-old man be detained for about 20 months for failure to take TB drugs.
A global issue, it is the chief message The Lucky Specials film tackles through a tasteful drama, new music genre and a talented cast.
The Lucky Specialsis a South African film with a compelling message on TB and how personal carelessness and negligence can be costly, not only to oneself, but also those who care about you.
STRUGGLE FOR SURVIVAL
Mandla (Oros Mampofu) is a hapless young man trying to survive like everyone else. Circumstances have forced him to work in a dangerous mine to earn a living while receiving guitar lessons on the side after a backbreaking day down the mine.
Together with his guitar tutor Bra Easy (Blondie Makhene) and other young artists they play in a band in Bra’s small neighbourhood tavern.
Bra Easy is weakening by the day and down with a stubborn cough. He lives with his niece Nkanyiso (Sivenathi Mabuya) a girl Mandla seemingly has feelings for.
A stubborn old man, Bra ignores Nkanyiso’s plea to go to the hospital and insists on taking his precious herbs.
Mandla is regularly around Bra who coughs up unabashedly propelling the TB germs all over. With pure horror it is shown through brilliant animation how the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria released by Bra in the air enters the lungs of Mandla.
You are taken into his lungs to behold the weakness of the body’s immunity to fight the bacteria that grows exponentially.
Bra Easy, a father figure to Mandla, Nkanyiso and other band members made up of Jose (Richard Lukunku), Sello (Thomas Gumede) and Zwanga (Fulu Mugovhani) is the drummer, leader of the band and owner of the little tavern that he runs with the help of Nkanyiso.
The stubborn cough refuses to go and begins to take a toll on the old man. He coughs blood and collapses in the middle of a performance at night and is rushed to the local clinic. Bra is found to have incurable level of TB incapable of responding to any treatment. He took too long to seek medical advice.
Mandla, Nkanyiso and The Lucky Specials band are shaken. They are advised to go for TB tests having spent time around Bra. Mandla refuses to go for check-up, claiming he is alright. However, unlike the rest, unbeknownst to him, the conditions of working in a mine have weakened his health and TB has been exponentially developing inside his lungs.
He begins to weaken and only the concern of his girlfriend and Bra’s niece, Nkanyiso, compels him to visit the clinic.
A few days later he receives an SMS alert to go for his results where he learns he has TB but HIV negative.
CRUSHING BUT TREATABLE
Mandla is advised by the doctor that unlike HIV virus, TB is treatable.
He is put under a concoction of pills for six months and has to remain indoors for the first two weeks. Mandla is requested to refrain from smoking or inebriating himself.
He lies about having someone to follow up on his drug intake.
The film shows with striking imagery the effect of the treatment as intake of drugs for a short time diminishes the TB ecosystem in Mandla’s lungs with time.
However, the germs are still there and the six months of pills have to go the full nine miles for the disease to be completely obliterated.
Mandla lives in a shack in the ghetto alone. Bedridden, he is almost starving as the side effects of the disease hit him hard.
It takes the love of his girlfriend, a stubborn girl who courageously trudges through the ghetto, infested with shirtless ruffians cat-calling her all along, as she brings him much food.
STIGMA IS REAL
After a few weeks he is able to return to work and tend to the affairs of the band. Mandla shares his concerns about the stigma projected by neighbours who believe one cannot have TB and be HIV negative with his band mate and best friend Jose.
His fears are shattered when Jose, a burly, healthy tall young man shocks him with the news that he has always been HIV positive and drugs and healthy lifestyle has kept him alive.
Bra dies and leaves the tavern to Nkanyiso. The Lucky Specials have to find a new drummer. After a hilarious search that takes them to a church, army barracks and a visit by a white biker it dawns on them what they desired was always with them.
One of the female band members gives The Lucky Specials an authentic new sound that sends a wedding gig into a lively frenzy.
Mandla has to keep visiting the clinic to collect TB medication. One day, the queue at the pharmacy is awfully long. A promoter from Maputo had watched an online video of their gig and was interested in seeing their live performance.
He intends to welcome them to a music festival in Mozambique. Mandla throws caution to the wind and leaves the clinic without the drugs.
He stops taking the TB pills claiming he is okay even as the remission of the disease is obvious.
FAR REACHING ERROR
The decision to stop drug intake will destroy his health and affect the lives of his band members, put their headliner act in Maputo on the balance, take him to a hospital far away where in isolation the treatment will include three painful jabs on his bottoms a week for four months and one year of tablets to completely eliminate the bacteria that is now resistant. His negligence throws everything off balance; future of their beloved tavern and stage and affect the musical dreams of every band member.
It will take love and crazy decisions to try and salvage the situation.
Beautifully done with superb acting, African music, love story and a strong health message, The Lucky Specials is a wonderful film that should remind everyone that their decisions and sloppiness also affects the lives of those around them.