A Behind the Scenes Look at the Making of “Love Always Prevails”

Filmmakers sat outside house with family

By Jacob Watson, Videographer, Cliff Co.

Kody, left, and I, right, are members of a storytelling group called Cliff Co. that partners with Operation Smile to create inspiring films about the patients and families they serve. Keep scrolling, and I’ll guide you through a behind-the-scenes look at how we captured Mariana and Ramata’s story.

Young girl smiling
Young girl playing with other children from her village

This is Ramata. Her outgoing personality and kindness were immediately evident from the moment we arrived at her home in Assin Praso, Ghana. As soon as we stepped out of our van, she greeted each of us with a giant hug and guided us around her village as we scouted locations to film. She loved introducing us to all her friends, and we would laugh together as we stumbled through language and cultural barriers.

Woman holding photos of successful cleft surgery on child

This is Mariana, Ramata’s strong, fierce and determined mother. She is such a hard worker and was an essential collaborator on this project. She carries so much love for her daughter and that was evident during all our interactions. The days we were filming were long, hot and humid. Despite the tough conditions, Mariana was always willing to work with us to reshoot or try new things until we perfectly captured each scene. It was amazing to see this mother’s commitment to her daughter and to share her important story with others.

Director rehearsing with child

Shortly after we arrived, Ramata challenged me to a game of ampeh, a classic Ghanaian game that involves lots of coordination, jumping and clapping. Let’s just say Ramata’s experience gave her the advantage, but I’ve been practicing at the office ever since.

Operation Smile volunteer shows film on phone to family
Operation Smile volunteer talks to locals about free cleft surgeries

Operation Smile Ghana Patient Coordinator Clement Ofosuhemeng, pictured here in the blue T-shirt, is truly astounding to watch do his work. He lives and breathes advocacy and cares for the people of Ghana with all his heart. He works like there isn’t a minute to spare, and his top priority is always connecting Operation Smile’s patients with the cleft care they need. As you see in the video, Clement was responsible for getting Mariana and Ramata the care they needed and has helped bring hundreds of patients to medical missions since he joined the organisation in 2015.

Mother and child being filmed in the market
Family playing outside house

The baby that you saw in the film was not Ramata, but a handsome little guy named Kelvin. His adoptive mother Felicia traveled to a medical mission in Ho, Ghana, last year. At the time, Kelvin had a respiratory infection and was under the recommended healthy weight for his age. Operation Smile Ghana Dietician Dede Teiko Kwadjo worked closely with Felicia, and Kelvin quickly put on some healthy baby weight. We’re happy to report that since filming, Operation Smile was able to provide Kelvin with the surgery he needed.

Director showing footage on phone to woman and child
Mother and child being filmed by camera crew

This video was created in a unique way where we wrote a script and filmed in direct collaboration with the family who lived the reality. We were able to capture Mariana and Ramata’s experience through their own lens. In my opinion, this style of filming creates an emotional, intimate opportunity for the viewer to connect directly with this story.

Group photo of film crew and actors

Here’s a group photo taken on the final evening of filming. From left to right: Mariana, photographer Zute Lightfoot, Ramata, Jacob, Clement and Kody. Thanks for following along on this behind-the-scenes journey. We were so proud of this film and I feel honored to have had the opportunity to collaborate with Mariana, Ramata, Clement and the entire Operation Smile team. Now that you’ve gained this new perspective on Mariana and Ramata, I encourage you to re-watch their full story.