Research into ‘Nollywood’ (Nigerian cinema) has inspired a drama about sickle cell disease, helping to inform the UK’s West African community and the wider public.

Femi Houghton and baby Shamar Grant


Jane Thorburn’s work is largely practice-based, consisting of six documentaries made in Nigeria over the last five years, built on her research into the Nigerian film and video industry. Her UK-shot drama The Family Legacy, which she directed, produced and edited, aims to inform people about sickle cell disease.

Sickle cell disease affects haemoglobin, the part of red blood cells responsible for carrying oxygen around our body. It causes extreme pain and can lead to lifelong problems including strokes and blindness. The gene is carried by one in four people of West African origin living in the UK and is often misinterpreted as the result of a curse, superstition or that it can only be cured by God.

Funded by the NHS Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia Screening Programme (NHSSCTSP), The Family Legacy is an emotional, three-part production, inspired by the popularity of Nigerian home video dramas and originally targeted at West Africans living in London. The story explores the impact that the birth of a child with sickle cell disease has on four generations of the same family and is taken from real-life experiences. It has challenged the taboos, superstitions and religious beliefs that surround the disease.

The Family Legacy has inspired innovative viewings, being shown in barbers shops and other male environments in the black community – without seeming confrontational – and at mosques, churches and doctors surgeries.

Published on DVD by the NHS, the film has been screened at festivals, medical conferences and on multiple TV channels in the UK and West Africa, informing a broader public not directly affected by sickle cell disease. It continues to be shown around England and is promoted by the NHS and the Sickle Cell Society.


The project demonstrates substantial information needed among priority populations and that proactive outreach is an effective way to engage audiences outside normal channels. The Family Legacy drama contributed to NHSSCTSP core objectives of supporting informed choice, engaging men, developing materials for the public and hearing their views.

NHS Independent Evaluators

Supported by: NHS Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia Screening Programme, Sickle Cell Society, WoManBeing Concern