Editor Stef Sequeira shines light on CHD with acclaimed documentary ‘Save the Hearts’

Estefania Sequeira was only twelve years of age when she discovered her true calling. It was when her brother introduced her to iMovie. After playing around with the program on the school computers in Tokyo, she convinced her father to buy her a cheap camcorder and a computer and she started to make her own amateur videos, which quickly became an obsession. Figuring out how to piece together endless footage into a true work of art was an adrenaline rush she did not know was possible, and that was when she knew she wanted to become a film editor. 

Now, Sequeira is living that dream she discovered as a young teenager, working as a celebrated editor with an esteemed career well underway. Specializing in documentaries, Sequeira has edited many notable productions, including Protecting the Crossroads, Internado, and most recently, Save the Hearts. It is this last project that holds a special spot in her own heart, as it sheds light on an important issue many are unaware of.

Save the Hearts tells the story of two rural families in India, each with children suffering from Congenital Heart Disease, who set off on a long journey toward the Sai Sanjivani Hospital that promises free treatment. 

When Sequeira began having conversations about the project with the directors, Joshua Izenberg and Brett Marty, she instantly felt that this was a project she did not just want to be a part of, but needed to.

“Many children in less developed countries die from CHD due to inadequate, inaccessible and unaffordable care. Many of these lives could be saved if they just had access to care. The surgery required to treat this condition is very low risk, especially if treated early. The Sai Sanjivini hospital can conduct a surgery for just $1,000 and they rely on donations in order to offer this care for free,” said Sequeira. “I hope that this video not only spreads awareness, but that it also shines light on the compassion that exists in the world. Everyone who works at Sai Sanjivani is dedicated to helping people and they believe that every good deed has a ripple effect. It is with outside support that they have been able to conduct numerous surgeries and save many lives. Yet they still need more support. This is a big problem that not only requires the help of the health care workers on the ground but also the help of scientists who continue to look towards prevention.”

Sequeira was the lead editor, playing a major role in turning the three stories of Sai Sanjivani Hospital, and the two children; Degeshwar and Shruti, into one seamless film. There was a lot of footage covering these three stories and as the editor Sequeira had to figure out how to interweave them to shape the overall narrative.  

“Piecing the puzzle together is always my favorite part. It can always seem a bit daunting when you’re staring down an abyss of hours of footage, but once you dive in and start getting familiar with the footage it starts to feel more manageable as you start making connections in your head of the pieces that could fit together,” she described.

The first sequence Sequeira put together was that of the surgery along with a few interview sequences that talk about the disease. These were the most information heavy, with less focus on emotion and more focus on facts, focusing on accuracy first. Once she had edited a rough assembly of that, she was able to concentrate more on Degeshwar and Shruti’s story, putting more of an emphasis on emotion at that point. In doing this, she could start to see the bigger picture and how the story would come together. 

“With editing there’s a lot of trial and error, so you go through different iterations of how scenes can be cut together, what interview footage you use, and the edit as a whole. I worked with the directors to shape what would eventually become the final cut… I love constructing the story as it reveals itself in the editing room. I really enjoy assembling that puzzle and although it can be quite challenging at times, it’s a great feeling when it all comes together,” she said.

Save the Hearts went on to screen at several prestigious film festivals, including Mountain Film Festival, Crested Butte Film Festival, and Durango Independent Film Festival. However, the awards and accolades come second to Sequeira, who finds the real reward is sharing such an important story.

“It’s important to shine light on the heartbreaking reality that this disease is affecting and killing many children around the world, specifically in developing countries. There’s a lot of great work being done to address this problem by the Sai Sanjivini hospital and the Heart to Heart foundation. Supporting them can in turn save lives,” she concluded.

To find out more about CHD and how you can help, visit https://www.h2h.foundation/

Photo by Anastasiia Sapon

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