Fire in the Blood
This is an astonishingly strong and important debut film from writer, director, editor and producer Dylan Mohan Gray. Pitched perfectly, it is precisely what the documentary genre was invented for and is essential viewing.
Advertised with the tag line “medicine, monopoly, malice”, it tells the story of what is rightly described as a crisis of humanity: the unjust and immoral blocking of access to AIDS medication in third world countries, which has caused millions of unnecessary, painful deaths. It sifts through the intricate history of the subject with a clarity that engages from the start. Emotionally charged, but not emotionally blackmailing, it is well-balanced and presents stark facts that speak for themselves. These alarming truths are supported by excellent commentary from contributors – people who decided to fight back, including Bill Clinton, Yusuf Hamied (the Indian scientist behind the pharmaceutical company with a conscience) and Zackie Achmat, the activist who refused his own treatment until the South African government agreed to implement a treatment programme for all.
The message, above the injustice, is that this crisis is ongoing. The breakthrough discovery of anti-retroviral drugs in 1996 meant that AIDS was no longer necessarily a death sentence. But one of the starkest facts presented is the price that was put on those drugs: US$40 per tablet, set against the average African wage of US$68 per week. And yet, almost two decades on and after a series of uplifting successes and heart-breaking setbacks, the continent with two thirds of its population with AIDs still faces a seemingly insurmountable challenge to get the drugs to where the people who need them actually are. The wilful ignorance by those in power, the shocking manipulation of the rules, and the basic corporate greed involved is very hard to watch calmly.
The film is beautifully put together, expertly edited, and supported by a superb score by Ashutosh Phatak. An eye-opening must see.
Fire in the Blood is released in selected cinemas on 22nd February 2013.
Watch the trailer for Fire in the Blood here: