In South Africa, one in every 700 children will be born with a cleft lip or palate. What many aren’t aware of is that it only takes 45 minutes to perform a cleft lip correction surgery – the same amount of time as half a soccer game.
In light of this, Operation Smile teamed up with Y&R and Arcade Content director Lebogang Rasethaba to create an ambitious series of documentaries for the #Operation45 campaign. To demonstrate how quick and relatively uncomplicated this life changing operation is, they piggybacked on SA’s biggest soccer event, the Soweto Derby between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. In the first short documentary we meet 9 month old Alexzander Coetzee and 11 month old Ofentse Sithole, both of whom were born with cleft lips, and the second video follows their surgeries on match day.
Pre-game commercials where created and aired live on Supersport to introduce the two boys before their surgeries. Soccer fans were able to follow their progress as presenter Sibongile Mafu interviewed Dr Anil Madaree before and after each op.
“Shooting those surgeries was probably the most intense, productive and enlightening 45 minutes of my life,” says Lebo. “#Operation45 was a really big, complex idea with a lot of moving parts, but more importantly it was about changing lives: the young kids, their parents, and the broader population. It was a privilege to be part of this.”
Creative director of Y&R South Africa’s Cape Town office Nkanyezi Masango says, “Working with Lebo and his team was a profound experience for me. His unique ability to create a relaxed atmosphere on set and to engage with children allowed us to delve deep into the lives of these families and capture their emotions with sensitivity and authenticity. He made the process of filming as beautiful as the final product.”
A third documentary is currently in the works, which will follow Alexzander and Ofentse’s recovery and show how those 45 minutes not only helped change their lives, but will affect the lives of many, forever.