Unseen Enemy Unseen Enemy See it now on CNN

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The Film

In the 21st century, we are all connected. Population growth, mass urbanization, deforestation, climate change and increased travel have dramatically increased the risk that familiar diseases will spread and mutate, and new ones will emerge. As people enter new spheres of biodiversity, they come into closer contact with other species, increasing the risk of viruses jumping from animals to humans, and then spreading more widely.

Unseen Enemy is an essential exploration of reasons 21st-century populations are experiencing a rash of diseases that were once only outbreaks, but have now become full-blown epidemics. This increased risk that we face, and the ways society and individuals can work together to reduce that risk, are explained to the public through the case studies of three epidemics: Ebola, influenza and Zika. Moving across the globe, we meet doctors, disease detectives and everyday people who have stepped into the horror of an epidemic and emerged deeply changed. Epidemics bring out the best and worst of human behavior, with effects reaching far beyond the tolls of sickness and death.

On the ground during the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, we witness the human and economic costs of epidemics, the global hysteria, a poor international response — and how global economic inequality drives epidemics.  Examining our yearly influenza epidemics as well as the history of influenza pandemics, we learn that the flu is a disease that causes experts sizeable fear. Yet, influenza is often misunderstood by the public. Even in an average year, the virus can kill between 250,000 and 500,000 people globally, with new strains constantly emerging.

Finally, through the Zika outbreak in Brazil, we see how a disease can move across the world, endangering particularly vulnerable targets: pregnant women and infants.  Through the reach of Zika, we learn how climate change and travel can affect the spread of disease. 

What these epidemics have made clear is that we, as a society, are woefully unprepared for a major pandemic. As stated by Dr. Larry Brilliant, “Two speeding trains are racing toward each other, both fueled by modernity: one represents the increasing likelihood of a pandemic brought upon us by our own behavior; the other carries new tools and technologies that could help us find viruses and bacteria early enough to prevent a global outbreak. The choice is ours as to which of those speeding trains wins.”

As individuals, we connect with thousands of other people every day; people we know well and others whom we only meet once. Each person is a part of a global web of connection that quickly leads from Vancouver to Hong Kong, New York to Liberia, Leipzig to New Delhi and from Rio de Janeiro to Kinshasa. Our connection can be either incredibly dangerous or a powerful force for good. Now more than ever, we need to put the “public”back in Public Health, for it is  only by uniting our collective strength that we will all be truly safe. As it turns out, we are all the frontline in global health.

Visit UnseenEnemy.com #ItTakesAllOfUs

The Film

  • Paul G. Allen: Executive Producer
  • Carole Tomko: Executive Producer
  • Jody Gottlieb: Executive Producer
  • Courtney Sexton: Supervising Producer
  • Janet Tobias: Director/Writer/Producer
  • Rogger Lopez: Producer
  • Peter Klein: Producer
  • Michael Ehrenzweig: Producer

The Mission

From Paul G. Allen's commitment to fighting the deadly Ebola virus, to simple ways to combat the flu, Unseen Enemy will provide a critical look at misconceptions about the threat of epidemics, and expose how we can work together to triumph over humanity's biggest killers.

08.18.2017


#ItTakesAllOfUs to Prepare for Pandemics

03.17.2017


"If we do nothing, it's not a matter of if there will be a global pandemic. It's just a matter of when and which virus and how bad."

Dr. Larry Brilliant - Skoll Global Threats Fund

08.18.2017


Watch a first-hand account from the field with Unseen Enemy photographer Christopher Beauchamp

11.17.2015


"Had we been there at that very moment of the birth of HIV/Aids, we would have been able to prevent this horrible pandemic. Those are the things we want to be able to do."

Dr. Larry Brilliant - Skoll Global Threats Fund

05.26.2015


Watch a first-hand account from the field with Unseen Enemy Cinematographer Zac Nicholson.

11.17.2015


Watch more first-hand accounts from the crew on the making of Unseen Enemy.

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The Filmmakers

Photo of Janet Tobias

Janet Tobias Director/Writer/Producer

Janet Tobias is an Emmy Award-winning Producer/Director/Writer ...

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Photo of Rogger Lopez

Rogger Lopez Producer

Rogger Lopez is the Art Director and Production Manager at ...

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Photo of Michael Ehrenzweig

Michael Ehrenzweig Producer

Michael Ehrenzweig has produced award winning documentaries and ...

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Photo of Peter Klein

Peter Klein Producer

Peter W. Klein is an Emmy Award-winning journalist and director ...

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