Malaria turns comedy's Richard Curtis from laughter to tears

Tue Apr 23, 2013 9:59am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Barbara Lewis

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Brussels and Washington are the two great lobbying capitals of the world, where campaigners talk themselves hoarse trying to shift the political dial.

Some of them have had the fortune to recruit British director and screenwriter Richard Curtis, whose powers of persuasion move hearts as well as minds.

Known for his romantic comedies, such as "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "Notting Hill", Curtis has turned his hand to a didactic tragedy - "Mary and Martha" - being screened across the globe to coincide with world malaria day on April 25.

"You could take a simple story and take it straight into the heart of politics," he told a Brussels audience of lobbyists, politicians and representatives of the European Commission.

"Mary and Martha" tells the story of two mothers, one American (played by Hilary Swank), one British (played by Brenda Blethyn), who lose their sons to malaria then lobby Washington politicians to try to prevent other mothers losing their children too.

For the developed world, theirs is an exceptional tragedy. In Africa, death from malaria is a daily occurrence. The continent accounts for the vast majority of the well over half a million annual deaths from a preventable and treatable disease.

Curtis, who wrote the screenplay, is appalled that a quirk of geography can be so unjust.

"If 650,000 children in Europe were going to die this year of one disease - if it were only 6,000 - everything would be stopped to do something," he said. "I can't understand why this tiny bit of geography should make it not matter."   Continued...

Director Richard Curtis arrives for a reception for the British Film Industry held by Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip at Windsor Castle, southern England April 4, 2013. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor