Image credit: Sparkwater India/ Dartmouth Films
Fire in the Blood is a harrowing viewing experience. The sombre documentary portrays the real events of an AIDS drug extortion scandal which has slipped under the radar of public consciousness, but continues to take an unthinkable number of lives.
If, like many, you're not familiar with this tragic true tale, it's a harsh truth to hear; through overpricing their produce and refusing the sale of cheaper alternatives using archaic patenting laws, huge pharmaceutical companies have created a monopoly which has damned many to death in the developing world.
"It kept me awake at night" director Dylan Mohan Gray revealed, when this blogger spoke to him about the film. "When I began to learn the truth about all that had happened, and the events I later portrayed in the film, I was incredibly angry that so much of it wasn't known to me."
Not resorting to animated segments or any other documentary-as-entertainment gimmicks, Gray set out to make a film which presented this shocking truth in the most honest way possible. "This story really didn't need any pimping out," he explained. "I find that those techniques usually signpost a not particularly deep or compelling narrative, and I think audiences must make similar judgements."
"It was important to me that the viewer be presented with the cold, hard truth as I saw and continue to see it, and that the emotions they experience should be arrived at genuinely, without being prodded cynically toward them by way of various manipulative techniques."
This ambition was certainly achieved, with the film presenting its subject matter with the style of a feature-length factual news story compiling all the available footage and opinions, helped along only by Academy Award winner William Hurt's solemn voice-over (which he completed pro bono), unobtrusive background music, the occasional end-of-chapter fade-to-black and shocking facts which appear as text-on-screen.
Last of these snippets of information to appear is a plea for help urging audiences to visit fireintheblood.com, join the cause and help stop what Gray calls 'the crime of the century.'
Despite one small victory occurring throughout the events told in the film, the larger problem has only got worse in recent years and will continue to take lives, unless we do something.
This led us to an interesting question - can a film really change the world?
"Definitely," was the director's confident response. "Not on its own, of course, but it can be a very important part of the puzzle, and the process, whether as a spark, catalyst or a conversation-starter."
"Film can be a tool to shock people out of their everyday complacency and make them see something that may have been sitting right under their noses in a totally different way."
The Fire in the Blood website urges each of us around the world to lobby politicians, hoping to ignite a global call for change and ultimately save lives. When asked if this technique was working, Gray was again enthusiastic.
"The groups we work with on issues of access to medicine tell us that Fire in the Blood has been hugely beneficial to them in terms of helping the wider public understand why this is all so vitally important and ultimately affects every single one of us," he explained.
"Imagine realising that something you've never given so much as a minute's thought to is responsible for a third of all deaths in any given year - that's a reaction many people have to Fire in the Blood. They simply can't believe they didn't know more about all this, and that applies even to those who might have already known quite a lot about various constituent parts of the story."
Tapping into a resource for change with potential to be more effective than lobbying or petitioning, Gray has become an ambassador for making a difference by shifting public opinion. This is where Fire in the Blood excels - in bringing a harsh truth to light using an unrelentingly factual approach.
"That sense of being duped, lied to and betrayed by those one trusts to impart information to the public is an incredibly powerful force," Gray concluded. "I know for certain that several of those who see this film will eventually go on to lead the fight for fairness and a human rights-based approach to global public health, picking up the baton from the heroes of our film."
Through encouraging this shift in public opinion, developing awareness and inspiring people into action, Fire in the Blood has provided proof that yes, a film can change the world. If you haven't seen this film yet, you really should.
Fire in the the Blood is available now on DVD. To find out more about how you can support the cause, please click here.