Sasha Joelle Achilli

Interviewed by Lauren Gill and Victoria Cagol, MA Journalism Falmouth University


“COVID is quite silent. People weren’t dying on the streets, they were in hospital on ventilators,” recalled Sasha Achilli of the 20 days she spent filming on the healthcare frontline in northern Italy as the first wave of COVID-19 hit and deaths climbed to a peak of 971 in one day (WHO data).

Achilli is a finalist in this year’s Sony Impact Award for Current Affairs at the Rory Peck Awards for her BBC film Italy’s Frontline: A Doctor’s Diary. “The Rory Peck Trust is an incredible organisation – being recognised for this work is really special,” she said.

Achilli has covered public health crises all over the world, but reporting at home in Italy was very different – close access gave her a real understanding of what the virus can do.

“Being able to witness what was going on first-hand and being involved personally helped me get a better understanding of what we’re dealing with,” she said.

The story unfolds through the eyes of Dr. Francesca Mangiatordi, not only in her professional role, but at home as a wife and mother. We see her saving the life of Mattia, 18, before returning home to her own children who are afraid of losing their mother.

“You need to make people connect on a personal level – to see doctors in their personal sphere gives you a better understanding of why people are the way they are and do the things they do.”

As European countries battle a second wave of COVID-19, Achilli’s film shows how hard it was the first time around.

“The thing about a public health crisis is a lot of it is in the hands of the public,” she said. “A human story about doctors and nurses and the reality of what they went through will maybe make people more aware of their own responsibilities to try and stop the virus.”