About the Film


Sister tells the story of health workers from Ethiopia, Cambodia and Haiti, exploring how they find meaning while working under difficult circumstances and revealing maternal and newborn death as a human rights issue.

An intimate portrait of a global crisis woven from indigenous scenery and vérité footage, Sister captures colors, sights and sounds while exploring dedicated health workers and those in their care through intense and beautiful moments.

Goitom Berhane, a charismatic Ethiopian health officer in residency in a Masters of Surgery and Obstetrics Program at a rural hospital. Pum Mach, a direct but gentle rural midwife living and working within a heavily land mined area of Cambodia. And Madam Bwa, a captivating Haitian midwife, herself fighting poverty, working in a volatile, densely populated urban area.

Their stories reveal strategies in place to improve maternal health and address the crisis in maternal and newborn mortality to show when the strategies work, when they don't work and how the lack of transport, communication and education create weak links along the way.

These are some of the stories behind the statistics.



Brenda Davis is a Canadian citizen who grew up in Toronto and is a U.S. permanent resident currently living in New York City. Brenda has over 20 years experience in various aspects of filmmaking. She has worked as a script supervisor, a script consultant, and extensively as a researcher. She is a member of the researchers organization FOCAL International.

Brenda has made five short films for NGOs shot as a one-person crew. These projects are the foundation of Brenda's filmmaking style: vérité documentary rooted in social activism. SISTER is her first feature documentary.


Swati Guild is a filmmaker and artist with a global perspective. Her projects span numerous media including documentary films, experimental video and street photography. Since graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 2005, her documentary work has been broadcast internationally on Al Jazeera and Record TV, featured in film festivals in North America, Europe and Africa and used by nonprofits and community groups around the world.


New York based editor Alison Shurman has been editing documentary films for the last five years. She broke onto the scene in 2008 as Editor of the critically acclaimed, Tribeca Film Festival favorite RUN FOR YOUR LIFE, about the founder of the NYC Marathon. The film was rated one of the top five sports movies of all time by Runner's World Magazine, and recently aired on WNET Channel 13. She was the Additional Editor of the Emmy-nominated documentary PRESSURE COOKER. Ms. Shurman studied filmmaking and editing at The New York Film Academy and The Edit Center in New York City.


Brenda Davis, Director / Producer

I'm a mother, daughter and a sister. I am the eighth of eight children born by an emergency cesarean section, which resulted in my mother's emergency hysterectomy at age 33.

The subject of this film has been circling me for a long time. My family is from a remote part of Canada in Nova Scotia. My grandmother, Martha, gave birth to 16 children - four were stillborn and another died at 2 years old. Her first child died when she was 19 and the last one died when she was 39, I remember thinking about it a lot as a child and since then.

I first picked up a camera in 2006 and shortly afterwards participated in an NGO/Filmmaker collaborative workshop in Uganda. The first things I shot there were an emergency cesarean section and an interview with a pregnant woman whose baby was stillborn due to malaria.

In 2008, I documented the Gotland Course in Emergency Obstetric Care for mid-level health workers from Africa and Asia. A renowned Swedish Obstetrician and Gynecologist, Dr. Staffan Bergstrom, known for his background in training maternal health workers in developing countries runs the course. Dr. Bergstrom literally wrote the book on the subject. (Maternal Care in Developing Countries http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1279524)

It was while documenting the Gotland Course that I met an Ethiopian Health Officer, Goitom Berhane, who had been working at a rural hospital and was in charge of all obstetric emergencies. And it was while I was transcribing Goitom's interview that realized I was going to make a film about maternal and newborn mortality.

Goitom Berhane shared during an interview: "When an innocent mother, because of her pregnancy, is dying from lack of appropriate care in the right time in the right place with the right skill. That is what is actually happening in the developing world."

Later he said: 'There is not that much good incentive for what you are doing day and night, being called every night, three or four times, so whenever a dying mother survives, this is what enlightens you, this is what makes you happy and gives you meaning and sense to your life, that you are living a meaningful life.'

For more information about the countries where we filmed.

  • Revolution and Genocide in Ethiopia and Cambodia by Edward Kissi¬†
  • Damming the Flood: Haiti and the Politics of Containment by Peter Hallward
  • Peasant Revolution in Ethiopia: The Tigray People's Liberation Front, 1975-1991 by John Young¬†
  • Ethiopia: Power & Protest : Peasant Revolts in the Twentieth Century by Gebru Tareke
  • A Political History of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (1975-1991) by Aregawi Berhe
  • The Stones Cry Out: A Cambodian Childhood, 1975-1980 by Molyda Szymusiak
  • Cambodian Mu Sochua: MP & Human Rights Advocate, http://sochua.wordpress.com/

UNFPA Cambodia Overview


UNFPA Ethiopia Overview


UNFPA Haiti Overview