Amidst a blood shortage crisis and standstill traffic most hours of the day in Nigeria, it can take over 24 hours to transport blood to patients in critical need. Joseph, one of the city's motorcycle "blood riders,” can deliver blood to hospitals in under an hour. For mothers in labour, this is often the difference between life and death.
Looking at director Jon Kasbe’s work, one cannot help but notice that his stories are anchored by supremely powerful imagery, each one almost telling a story on its own. That methodology is in full effect in this film that plays almost like a fictional narrative, such is the dire nature of the dramatic stakes and the fascinating character arc of the film’s subjects.
The film’s production embedded itself with six pregnant women and four blood delivery riders and ultimately made the decision to tell the story of two of those people, expectant mother Deborah and delivery rider Joseph. From the off, the depths to which the crew was embedded with the subjects of the film are startlingly intimate. Using a blend of narrating subjects and capturing moments and conversations between the subjects and their friends and family, while also avoiding traditional talking head accounts, this film gives the kind of character insight and show don’t tell storytelling that you would find in a scripted story (and a well-written one at that).
The parallel stories of Deborah and Joseph are punctuated by some stunning shots of the city of Lagos, from its encompassing skyline to the gridlocked streets that represent the antagonist to Joseph’s mission. Additionally, the shots of Joseph himself, racing by motorcycle to deliver his vital cargo are both frenetic, capturing the dizzyingly high stakes of every ride and solidly focused, with the relentless speed mirroring Joseph’s dogged determination.
Kasbe’s eye for story allows him to strike a balance between the often, mortal challenge that the blood delivery riders need to overcome and the very personal motivations and moral challenges for Joseph. When coupled with Kasbe’s signature intimacy in following Deborah and giving the audience a deep dive into her personal life, we are given human stakes and a face to represent the many pregnant women who rely on the miracles that Joseph and people like him are asked to continuously perform.
While the film strikes a powerful tone in terms of its subjects’ personal lives, it does not skimp on the pace or tension as we are subjected to races against time and battles for survival. The cinematography by Kasbe and David Bolen, combined with the pacing and narrative structuring of the editing team of Kasbe, Jim Hession and Federico Conforti, construct a gradual build to a climax not a million miles removed from the kind of high-speed chase you might find in an action movie.
Ultimately Blood Rider is a very human film. Jon Kasbe and his team manage to weave together internal struggle, family life, the pressures of healthcare, mortal danger and heroism into spine-tingling, gut-wrenching, emotionally powerful and absolutely cinematic experience.
Studio: Kasbe Films | Year: 2020 | Genre: Documentary | Duration: 17 Mins | Suitability: Mature