Your Life is a commodity
Robert Redford recently spoke of the demise of investigative journalism in main stream media, and that documentaries were flooding in to not only fill the void, but effectively overflow and surpass their predecessors ambitions, in giving honourable time and substance to tales that need generous space to remain true to their subject.
If you’ve ever read The Guardian journalist Nick Davies’ brilliant book ‘Flat Earth News’ you will understand the many predominately commercial self strangulating strands that could potentially lead to media outlet suicide, rushing to the bottom of the lowest common denominator of churnalism, ‘chasing the buck’. Incidently, Nick with the support of The Guardian was responsible for exhuming the hacking scandal that Rupert Murdoch’s media empire was found to be involved in.
Another very admirable finger in the leaking dyke of journalistic demise comes in the form of Dylan Mohan Gray’s incredible documentary ‘Fire In The Blood’. In it’s simplest form, it deals with rampant systemic Big Pharma(ceuticals) corporate greed. On a more complex level, it deals with all of humanity, from the lowest evolved bacteria residing in boardrooms, to the riches that the human spirit can achieve against all the odds in the poorest slums. Presenting the way people approach various situations range from inspiration in the worst finite medical health situation, to the despicable in the comfort of the homicidal pursuit of profit, and the genocide of over ten million people.
The film deals mainly with various people afflicted with the HIV virus around the late 1990s around the world, with a focus on South Africa. For many different reasons such as the lack of knowledge/information about the virus, it spread very fast in the region. However, the technology and advances in medicine and support mechanism already existed to slow down if not pause the progress of the virus within sufferers, enabling them to continue their lives, supporting families and contributing to society in general.
To achieve this standard of normality came at a generally insurmountable (artificial) price to the majority of the South African populous. If South African Supreme court judge Edwin Cameron struggled with the price of ARV’s (Antiretroviral drug therapy used to allay the virus) costing a third of his salary, what hope did anyone else truly have for continuing their lives.
The average price of a years supply of ARV’s was about $15,000 when in actual fact the drugs were produced for less than pennies, so the profit margin was enormous. The giant, (very politically connected pharmaceutical) companies were not about to lose such wealth under any circumstances, whatever the result. That result being the deaths of millions. The film deals with the fight back of these inspiring people who weren’t going to let what was effectively murder.
There are many great people interviewed, but one of the most amazing has to be Yusuf Hamied who runs Cipla, a pharmaceutical manufacturer which has a positive social agenda as it’s core value. They took on the Goliath might of Big Pharma by exposing the huge global profit mark up on drugs that companies were making, by offering to make generic versions of the ARV cocktail, at a price of less than $1 a day, rather than the thousands normally charged a year.
Instead of combining efforts to save millions of lives, it became a battle of ‘protecting’ drug patents (profits) in the courts and political forums all around the world. That battle continues to this very day and beyond as it is very clear that Big Pharma has the characteristics and collective conscious of a homicidal manic, willing to do anything to win.
It is a phenomenally fascinating tale, that is so huge in research and detail, it is stunning it hasn’t been dealt with on this level before. The documentary is a credit to everyone involved on any level, richly deep in information and range of personalities, including an ex Pfizer Vice President Peter Roost who gives a clinical chilling insight to the actual way these companies operate.
This may seem a documentary about a situation that other people around the world have found themselves in, but it’s about all of us, everywhere, now.
Director Dylan Mohan Gray was at the screening I went to. Effectively a specialist on the subject by this stage, he made it very clear the people he was giving light to in the film were just one category of victims of Big Pharma. Sufferers of any ailment were fair game in corporate eyes, whether it be cancer, heart disease etc, all were massive potential money makers. It was very clear the profits made by these giants allowed them to dictate the movements, actions and law making of governments around the world.
But what was also very clear, was that we, the people can stop them. Considering the wholesale sell-off (for private profit) of the NHS that the Conservative party are doing in the UK before our very eyes, this film really is a wake up call. If the deaths of ten million people for profit doesn’t make you want to stand up, scream and fight, maybe you’re dead already.
Fire In The Blood is released in UK cinemas on February 22nd. Check fireintheblood.com for screening information.