‘Fire in the Blood’ is fuel for the ‘Elysium’ fire

Former President Bill Clinton asks us how would we behave if we saw people “die like flies.” The documentary “Fire in the Blood” was shot on four continents with clips of people such as Clinton, Bishop Desmond Tutu and Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and looks at how the policies of pharmaceutical companies results in the death of millions of people. This is a different kind of AIDS/HIV documentary.

This isn’t about ACT-UP or Larry Kramer or the morality of homosexuality. This is about AIDS/HIV as a disease that has no morality and doesn’t care about sexual preference. This is about AIDS/HIV in Africa, where the drugs they needed were made under patent. The patent set the price of the drugs that could save millions of people. A generic drugs would be less expensive, would break a monopoly.

Some generic drugs are made in Thailand at a government factory. These drugs are affordable, however, Pfizer’s patent made importing the drugs from Thailand illegal. At $40 a tablet, the Pfizer legal drug was more than the average South African could afford at the average wage of $68 per week.

Pfizer’s chokehold on the AIDS/HIV drug treatment has created a different kind of drug dealer–one that means to save sick people instead of creating the sickness of addiction.  In places where there is access are also threatened: India, the pharmacy of the developing world” has supplied quality low-cost medicine to other countries but the introduction of Western-style patent system may cut off the low-cost medicine that billions currently rely on.

This is about what happens to the resource-poor world, particularly the 25 million people in Africa.  Why should we have a say in how private industry covers its costs with high prices? According to “Fire in the Blood,” about 84 percent of the basic research is funded by the government and other public sources. The pharmaceutical companies only fund 12 percent of the research. Why shouldn’t public funded research be free for the public?

Further, some of the factories in India that produce the generic drugs are also producing the name-brands. The drugs aren’t necessarily pirate drugs, low quality knock-offs or fake, they are simply affordable.

In “Fire in the Blood,” director/producer/writer/editor Dylan Mohan Gray shows considerable sensitivity and the clear-headed argumentation of his training as a historian. The Punjabi-Irish Dylan studied at Dartmouth (USA), the University of Vienna and the Budapest University of Economics. Working in Mumbai (Bombay), “Fire in the Blood” is his first feature-length film and the movie comes out at a good time. Americans are thinking about national health care and the big budget movie “Elysium” has given a ham-fisted science fiction version of the haves and have-nots.

If the rich in America have easy access to good health care, and the have-nots, including those of us suffering from workers comp injuries, then what about the nations with less political clout and a lower standard of living? In the so-called developing companies, where the people are predominantly non-white, the have-nots are dying from treatable and preventable diseases because they lack access to the medicine. The World Health Organization estimates that we’re talking about 18 million lives lost every year and the number will rise if American and European supported trade measures  kills the affordable drug industries in India and places like Thailand.

Dylan’s “Fire in the Blood” doesn’t reference “Elysium,” but it should be clear that “Elysium” is not the future in 2154. It is now with Europe and America as the parasitic Elysium living off the blood of the dying peoples in Africa. The world is again standing by as people are dying. “Fire in the Blood” sees medical monopolies and malice towards the poor in underdeveloped countries as the equivalent of murder and finds racism makes it easy for many to ignore the millions dying.

“Fire in the Blood” is currently at the Laemmle Music Hall in Los Angeles.

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