VOD film review: Fire in the Blood
Ivan Radford | On 27, Mar 2014
Director: Dylan Mohan Gray
Cast: Zackie Achmat, Edwin Cameron, Bill Clinton, Eric Goemaere
Watch Fire in the Blood online in the UK: iTunes
There’s something about the documentary format that, if done well, can really get under your skin. Dylan Mohan Gray’s Fire in the Blood is a textbook example. An investigation into the treatment of HIV in the Third World, it shocks, it informs, it provokes and it grips. You’d think Dylan has been doing it for decades. But this is actually his debut feature – a fact that makes this even more powerful.
“If it’s true that one person dying is a tragedy and millions dying is a statistics, this is a story about statistics,” he begins, with a rage that only gets stronger. With 18 million people dying every year because of high drug costs, Gray exposes the sickening blocking of HIV treatment by pharmaceutical companies more concerned with profits.
The film doesn’t shy away from the human impact of the corporate greed, but, impressively, neither is it afraid to crunch the numbers. In 2001, just 1 in 2000 Africans were being treated for HIV. Why? Because the pills were selling at $40 a pop, the same price as in America – while the average South African employee was barely making that sum in a week.
Where does the money go? Not into research and development, which drug companies argue need funding: just 1.3 per cent of their sales revenues go towards new drugs. Instead, the profit lines the firm’s pockets, while they block others from making generic, cheaper medicine through patents.
“These are not natural forces born out of Mother Earth,” one doctor angrily points out. “Patents are something we made up.”
Balancing the big picture with the smaller reality for the victims, Fire in the Blood expertly captures the moment when Bill Clinton, Desmond Tutu and others – including Indian scientists willing to join the cause – finally brought about a reduction in costs for anti-retroviral drugs. But the struggle isn’t over, Mohan reminds us, closing with an equally powerful finale.
A documentary, if done well, can get under your skin. Fire in the Blood burrows deep – and sets your blood boiling.