New Movie "The Lucky Specials" Delivers a Powerful Public Health Message in Advance of TB Day

SILVER SPRING, Maryland "The Lucky Specials" is a feature-length film slated to entertain millions in southern Africa and around the world with its dynamic storyline, new brand of African music, and unique look at the global epidemic of tuberculosis (TB). A private screening was hosted by Discovery Learning Alliance and HHMI Tangled Bank Studios on March 21 at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center just outside of Washington, DC, bringing together representatives of the global health sector to work on ways to distribute the film to its target audiences. A reception to be held on Capitol Hill on March 23 by Management Sciences for Health will feature clips from the film and discussion about its potential to impact millions impacted by TB. World Tuberculosis Day is March 24.

Produced by Discovery Learning Alliance and Quizzical Pictures in association with HHMI Tangled Bank Studios, with support from Wellcome Trust, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), and USAID and PEPFAR through Management Sciences for Health (MSH), "The Lucky Specials" weaves messages into the narrative to help audiences understand and respond to one of the world’s biggest killers, tuberculosis (TB), which killed 1.8 million people worldwide in 2015 (more people than died from AIDS that year). With a unique fusion of live-action drama and state-of-the-art animation, "The Lucky Specials" reveals the unseen world of TB from the inside out.

A unique global health intervention, "The Lucky Specials" demystifies TB in a personal, practical and memorable way. An African film for African audiences, the goal is personal and community behavior change that lowers infection rates and increases the percentage of people seeking and adhering to TB treatment. The film will be broadcast on television networks across southern Africa and the world in the coming weeks to expand the reach of the film. Additionally, music from the film is available on iTunes.

The Lucky Specials are a cover band in a dusty town in southern Africa. Mandla [Oros Mampofu (Skeem Saam)] is a miner by day and plays lead guitar for The Lucky Specials by night. He dreams of making it big in the music industry. When tragedy strikes, the band, Mandla and their friend Nkanyiso (Sivenathi Mabuya) struggle to hold everything together.

Director Rea Rangaka (Ode in Blood) led a phenomenal cast of international stars, including musician Blondie Makhene as Mandla’s mentor Bra Easy; Richard Lukunku (Thina Sobabili), Thomas Gumede (A Place Called Home) and Fulu Mugovhani (Ayanda) as Mandla’s bandmates; and Linda Sebezo (Gauteng Maboneng) as a businesswoman who threatens to make The Lucky Specials’ dreams fall apart.

“Media, particularly film, has immense power to entertain, to express emotions and to engage people in a way that nothing else can,” said Aric Noboa, president of Discovery Learning Alliance and producer of “The Lucky Specials.” “This film has it all: a new genre of music created specifically for the movie, a great story and a powerful message. We are privileged to work with our distinguished partners to bring this story to audiences across southern Africa and around the world.”

“When I read the script, it connected,” said Rangaka. “I am drawn to films that have powerful messages, especially when they come packaged in a good story. This story, as well as working with a great cast and crew, made ‘The Lucky Specials’ a deeply personal experience for me; I think audiences will understand and identify with what the characters are going through.”

“Rea has succeeded in bringing together the best of fiction and nonfiction storytelling to create a spectacular film,” said Noboa.  

“Films like ‘The Lucky Specials’ create an opportunity for great storytelling while giving viewers something that they have not seen before,” said Harriet Gavshon, managing director at Quizzical Pictures. “Innovation was key in bringing aspects of the film to life, combining drama with animation. With this great content, the heartbeat of the film comes through.”

“It’s always a great feeling bringing a character to life on-screen, and my character Mandla encounters a complex set of situations that take him down an unexpected path,” said Mampofu. “Figuring out how he evolves throughout the course of the film was fulfilling for me, and I think will be captivating for viewers as well.”

The world premiere of “The Lucky Specials” took place on February 17 at MonteCasino in Johannesburg, South Africa.

“Not only will this movie entertain millions of people across the African continent, but it will also impart critical lifesaving information. Quite simply, this is a film everyone needs to see!” said U.S. Consul General Christopher Rowan, speaking on behalf of USAID/Southern Africa. 

“’The Lucky Specials’ has the potential to help people realize that they can overcome curable diseases like tuberculosis,” said Dr. Erin O’Shea, president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). “This is a story of triumph over adversity, and it poignantly demonstrates the importance of access to medical care and information.”

“I hope this film will play an important role in encouraging discussions and increasing understanding of the reality of living with tuberculosis, by providing a gripping personal story which explores the impact of the disease,” said Dr. Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome Trust. “Building on the success of ‘Inside Story,’ this film will not only bring the science to life, but also offer a relevant and engaging drama to a young mass audience.”

“'The Lucky Specials' uses compelling personal stories to convey critical health information, an approach with the potential for great impact,” said Marian W. Wentworth, president and CEO of MSH.

"The Lucky Specials" was selected for the Toronto Black Film Festival and the Pan-African Film Festival of Ouagadougou, where it received the SIGNIS award. Discovery Learning Alliance and Quizzical Pictures previously produced the widely-acclaimed film “Inside Story,” which focused on HIV, was broadcast to more than 400 million people across Africa and won several film festival awards. 

For full updates on “The Lucky Specials,” visit or find “The Lucky Specials” on Twitter or Facebook ().


About Discovery Learning Alliance

Discovery Learning Alliance (DLA) uses the power of media to transform education and improve lives in classrooms and communities around the world. DLA’s mass media initiatives entertain tens of millions around the world while addressing critical education, development and public health issues. For more information, visit

About Quizzical Pictures

Quizzical Pictures is a leading South African production house. With awards ranging from the Peabody, the Rose D’Or to numerous local awards, Quizzical Pictures has a reputation for creating drama which combines great storytelling with a social impact. We have created numerous features and series that not only entertain but impact our society for the good: “Inside Story”; “The Science of HIV and AIDS” and “Intersexions” changed perceptions and raised awareness around HIV/AIDS. Our new feature, in collaboration with Discovery Learning Alliance, hopes to do the same for TB. For more information, visit

About the Howard Hughes Medical Institute

HHMI plays an influential role in advancing scientific research and education in the United States. Its scientists, located across the United States and around the world, have made important discoveries that advance both human health and our fundamental understanding of biology. The Institute also aims to transform science education into a creative, interdisciplinary endeavor that reflects the excitement of real research. For more information, please visit

About HHMI Tangled Bank Studios

HHMI Tangled Bank Studios is a production company established and funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute as an extension of its longstanding science education mission. Dedicated to the creation of original science documentaries for broadcast, theatrical and digital distribution, the company’s award-winning programs address important contemporary issues and capture compelling stories of discovery across all branches of scientific inquiry. For more information, please visit

About the Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health. They support bright minds in science, the humanities and the social sciences, as well as education, public engagement and the application of research to medicine. For more information, visit


The U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is the U.S. Government initiative to help save the lives of those suffering from HIV/AIDS around the world. This historic commitment is the largest by any nation to combat a single disease internationally. PEPFAR investments also help alleviate suffering from other diseases, including TB, across the global health spectrum. 


USAID is the lead U.S. government agency that works to end extreme global poverty and enable resilient, democratic societies to realize their potential. In southern Africa, USAID is committed to promoting trade and investment; increasing basic literacy; protecting our environment; combating gender-based violence; achieving an AIDS-free generation; and eradicating TB.

About Management Sciences for Health and the Leadership, Management & Governance Project

Management Sciences for Health (MSH) builds strong health systems that deliver everything it takes – people, money, medicine, information, and facilities – to prevent disease, treat illness, and empower people to lead healthier lives. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Leadership, Management & Governance (LMG) Project, led by MSH, strengthens health systems to deliver more responsive services to more people. The LMG Project builds on 30 years of the best thinking and practices from organizational development to empower health leaders, managers, and teams to meet and master their most pressing challenges. The LMG Project is funded by the USAID Regional HIV/AIDS Program and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) under Cooperative Agreement OAA-11-00015. For more information, visit

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Jordan Coriza