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Silent Killer

There are still a billion hungry people in the world. Fifteen thousand children -- the equivalent of five times the victims of the World Trade Center bombings -- die each day of hunger. Yet it doesn't have to be this way. We can end hunger -- if we make a commitment to doing so. SILENT KILLER shows how it can be done.

Hosted by National Public Radio's Scott Simon, the film begins in South Africa's Kalahari Desert, where razor-thin Bushmen use the Hoodia cactus to fend off hunger. But now, a drug firm has patented the Hoodia's appetite-suppressant properties and is using it to make a diet product for obese Americans and Europeans. Hoodia is a metaphor for a world where some people die from too much food, but millions more die from too little.

We discover how serious the problem is in Kenya as we meet Jane Ininda, a scientist who is trying to make agriculture more productive in her country, while her own brother, Salesio, barely survives the drought, poor soils and pests that constantly threaten his crops. Through powerful stories, we come to understand the dimensions of the hunger crisis.

At the World Food Summit in Rome, we learn how activists have been working to end hunger since President John Kennedy declared war on it in 1963. But today, America's commitment to food security is less clear. In fact, world financial commitments to hunger research have been declining in recent years.

But SILENT KILLER does not leave viewers feeling helpless. A visit to Brazil finds a nation energized by a new campaign called FOME ZERO -- Zero Hunger. In the huge city of Belo Horizonte, we meet a remarkable leader and see how, under the programs she supervises, the right to food is guaranteed to all. In the countryside, we are introduced to the Landless Peasants' Movement, which is giving hope to millions of hungry Brazilians.

'SILENT KILLER is an important contribution in the movement to build the political and spiritual will to end hunger...[It] is a crucial tool in our work to educate the public about this tragedy that takes the lives of about 25,000 people every single day.' Tony Hall, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture, former Member of Congress

'SILENT KILLER is more than a beautiful film with powerful visual images and stories. It is a sonic boom that breaks the silence about a nightmare, with racism the terrible subtext, which the world's policymakers--and all of us--have ignored for far too long. I was truly moved.' Haskell Wexler, Academy Award-winning cinematographer

'FAO has long argued that hunger was beatable if the political will was there to take up the fight. SILENT KILLER: THE UNFINISHED CAMPAIGN AGAINST HUNGER is a very successful portrayal of many of the root causes of hunger, and promotes solid proposals to regain ground in the war against hunger.' Charles H. Riemenschneider, Director, Liaison Office for North America, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

'A brilliant new film...about the neglected issue of world hunger. Jindrova and DeGraaf skillfully weave together compelling stories, vivid characters, stunning photography and memorable narration to produce a tour de force which wakes up the viewer to the importance of world hunger and what must be done about it.' Chris Palmer, Director, Center for Environmental Filmmaking, American University

'Being a travel writer, you see a lot of the world. I've seen lots of riches and happiness but sadly, I have also seen that hunger and starvation are still far too prevalent. It is amazing to learn that as many people die each week from hunger as died in the recent tsunami. It gets no headlines and it is entirely avoidable, costing less to overcome than what our society invests in professional sports, cosmetics or even caffeine. SILENT KILLER: THE UNFINISHED CAMPAIGN AGAINST HUNGER shows how we can work with the rest of the world to actually put an end to hunger.' Rick Steves, best-selling travel writer and PBS travel program host

'It's almost as if hunger has become accepted, a fact of life--much of the indignation (and hard work) of years past has vanished. This film should do much to end that sad state of affairs and return this great shame to the center of our consciousness.' Bill McKibben, author and environmentalist

'SILENT KILLER is much more than a new recitation of the daily tsunami of children - who starve, not through lack of food in the world, but because of lack of will to do things differently. It tells success stories where small seeds of change - an agronomist's work, a little grant, community organizing - are growing. Moreover, it shows us a whole country, Brazil, which has mobilized to end hunger. Seeing what they are doing, you'll think, 'This makes sense. We can do this.'' Vicki Robin, best-selling author and activist

'Some books get placed on a 'required reading' list. SILENT KILLER should be 'required viewing.' It has the potential to re-energize dormant popular support for access to food as a basic human right. Religious communities will find the program both challenging and heartening--challenging because it offers a sobering reminder of the chasm between those who struggle with overeating and those who never have enough; heartening because creative and successful programs in self-reliant farming are being developed. If adequately funded, these programs could lead whole populations out of the hunger pit.' Rev. Dr. Diane Kessler, Executive Director, Massachusetts Council of Churches

'SILENT KILLER is a lush film filled with poignant images, and sheds light on small solutions offering big promise. Young women farmers in Africa are an inspiration, displaying an intelligence and determination rarely depicted in western media. The killer may be silent, but the message is loud and clear.' Jack Hamann, Former CNN correspondent and author

'Teachers will love using [Silent Killer] in their classroom. I can't think of another film that paints such a poignant and balanced portrayal of hunger--one of the most pressing global issues facing humanity today--while offering real solutions and stories of hope. Brazil's Fome Zero program serves as an especially powerful example of real solutions in action, something that teachers are always looking for to help inspire and empower their students.' Gilda Wheeler, Program Director, Facing the Future: People and the Planet

'[Silent Killer] is a superb essay on hunger and its cures. Eye-arresting visuals, irrefutable logic in its arguments, non-patronizing in tone, and a cool but relentless attention to the facts. Here are movingly dedicated people who each tell their story or put their case in a way that only a stone could ignore.' Michael Rabiger, author of Directing the Documentary

'Of professional quality production, Silent Killer is Highly Recommended.' Ernarosa Tominich, Trocaire College Library, Educational Media Reviews


Main credits

Jindrova, Hana (Producer)
De Graaf, John (Producer)
De Graaf, John (Screenwriter)
Simon, Scott (Narrator)

Other credits

Music, Michael Bade; photography, editing, Diana Wilmar, David Fox.

Docuseek subjects

Distributor subjects

African Studies
Business Practices
Developing World
Food And Nutrition
Global Issues
Human Rights
International Studies
Science, Technology, Society
Social Justice


Africa, world hunger, Kalahari Desert, Bushmen, hoodia, Kenya, Jane Ininda, World Food Summit, Rome, President John Kennedy, Brazil, Fome Zero, Belo Horizonte, Landless Peasants' Movement; "Silent Killer"; Bullfrog Films