Like many recent college grads, Zach Gorelick, SMPA BA ’13, has plans to see the world before he takes his first job or applies to grad school. But he also plans to make a film in the process.
Gorelick is setting out to make Footnote, a documentary film about clubfoot—a condition he has dealt with since birth. The film will be shot in four countries—United States, New Zealand, Ghana, and Vietnam—to explore how clubfoot is handled, and, in too few cases, treated.
“When I talk to people, I’m continually struck by one thing: when I say the word ‘clubfoot,’ it’s like I’m speaking another language,” explains Gorelick. “People just don’t know about it.”
Clubfoot is a congenital condition that can affect one or both feet—the affected feet turn inwards at a 90 degree angle, causing people to “walk” on their ankles. If left untreated, the condition is debilitating.
Gorelick, who studied journalism at GW’s School of Media and Public Affairs, will be making the film with his girlfriend, Hannah Silverstein. Silverstein recently received a degree in international health from Georgetown University. “This project is a nice marriage between Hannah’s interest in global health and my interest in media,” Gorelick says.
Silverstein’s expertise and field work in Ghana will come in handy as the couple travels the world to seek the answer to one question: Why are so many people still suffering from a condition that is easily treated?
When Gorelick was a child, his bilateral clubfoot (affecting both feet) was treated to correct the condition as much as possible—but he still suffers from daily pain, and there are certain things, like running or jumping, that he will never be able to do.
Today, the treatments for clubfoot have advanced significantly. As Gorelick explains, “Imagine a tree that’s growing crooked—you’re unlucky that it’s growing crooked, but you’re lucky in that if you brace it against a stick, the tree can actually correct itself as it grows.”
Children born with clubfoot can now receive the Ponseti method, a type of surgery that actually guides the bone as it grows, so that the path of the bone is altered. If treated quickly (before age 10), most children suffering from clubfoot will grow up never knowing pain, disability or marginalization.
Despite a high success rate, this treatment remains largely unavailable outside the US.
“What is so easily fixed for us—and what can be fixed abroad for under $200,” says Gorelick, “is still crippling people into adulthood, leaving them unable to work in societies where manual labor is the only source of income.”
Through Footnote, Gorelick and Silverstein hope not only to raise awareness, but empower viewers to realize they can make a difference in treating this disease. “People aren’t dying from clubfoot,” says Gorelick, “but the tragedy is that it’s so treatable, yet it remains untreated.”
After fundraising and shooting in the US, the pair will leave the country in October to complete the rest of their film.
Though both Gorelick and Silverstein acknowledge there will be many challenges ahead, both feel bolstered by their educational backgrounds and the connections they’ve made while studying in DC.
“GW helped shape who I am as a journalist. I’m taking pages straight from my courses to try to make this project a reality,” says Gorelick. “I can’t say that this would be happening without GW.”
Want to get involved? Visit Footnote’s website to learn more about Gorelick and Silverstein, and how you can support them. And make sure to follow the film on Facebook to get the latest news and updates!