Now in its seventh year, the M.V. Film Center Doc Week will screen five documentary films on Monday, August 1, to Friday, August 5. The films offer a compelling variety of real-life stories.
The week starts on Monday, August 1, with “My Old School.” With animated scenes, Alan Cummings plays Brandon Lee, a middle-age would-be teacher and student at Bearsden Academy in Glasgow, Scotland. Oscar-nominated “Attica” plays next on Tuesday, August 2. It looks at the prison-system violence and racism that still needs reform. Emmy-winning director Stanley Nelson and politics professor James Taylor will appear in a post-film discussion moderated by Jacqueline Ramos, former senior advisor to the assistant director of defense for International Security Affairs.
Wednesday, August 3, “Trapped” plays. It is a powerful look at abortion rights in the issue before the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. The most relevant to a Vineyard audience is “The Quiet Epidemic,” a historical look at the controversy over Lyme disease. Finally comes “Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song” on Friday, August 5, about the legendary singer and songwriter.
Considering that the Vineyard is one of Lyme disease’s epicenters, the most important of the five documentaries for a Vineyard audience to watch is “The Quiet Epidemic.” Directed by Winslow Crane-Murdoch and Lindsay Keys, it takes the viewer back to 1975, when it first became evident that Lyme disease had reached epidemic proportions. No health practitioners, let alone the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), accepted the fact that chronic Lyme disease exists and patients are dying from it. Other organizations implicated include the Infectious Diseases Society of America; the National Institutes of Health; and the Food and Drug Administration. The film examines the history behind this highly complex bacterium, which can disguise itself and remain undetected for years in an individual’s body.
The narrative follows the illness of a young Brooklyn girl, who is ignored by multiple members of the medical profession saying there’s no such thing as chronic Lyme disease. Unable to walk, she clearly suffers from the effects of the illness, and tries desperately to find answers to what is causing her mysterious disease. The story of her illness is heartbreaking to watch. In another of the film’s illustrations, a Duke University scientist with the disease gets a heart transplant and ultimately dies. In fact, research uncovering chronic Lyme disease continues to be suppressed, even though the illness has spread throughout the nation and globally.
Insurance companies have refused to pay for expensive but necessary treatments, and research has not produced a preventive vaccine. The research insisting that chronic Lyme disease does not exist continues with even the nation’s top medical organization, the CDC, officially supporting its failure to exist, then approving a diagnostic test with a 50 percent accuracy. More than 500,000 people in the U.S. alone suffer from chronic Lyme disease. The film shows that the diagnostic tools used are highly unreliable, producing negative results despite clear evidence to the contrary, and also providing false positives. Even when diagnosed and treated, 10 to 20 percent of individuals continue to remain sick. Another issue in the Lyme disease controversy is that the bacteria can cause a host of different infections.
A Q and A session with directors Keys and Crane-Murdoch will follow, and will also include producers Daria Lombroso and Chris Hegedus.