Heineman & Froemke – ESCAPE FIRE

This film is about American healthcare system and its severe problems. Americans spend around 300 billion U.S. dollars a year on pharmaceutical drugs. That is almost as much as the rest of the world combined. Healthcare throughout years became a huge business in America and unfortunately almost every player in this industry is highly interested in keeping Americans ill.

The majority of patients are coming to their doctors repeatedly because they are not being cured after their first visit. Moreover, about 75% of the healthcare costs are spent for diseases that are easily preventable. In the film a number of doctors explain how American healthcare system forces them to send their patients from one specialist to another, unfortunately usually with no luck to get better.

ESCAPE FIRE offers a lot of facts and tries to focus on many issues. First of all it is focusing on rapidly growing obesity in America. The filmmakers claim that at the moment around 65% of America’s population is overweight. The issues are hidden not only behind Americans’ general inactivity but also affordability of eating right.

Another issue that is presented concerns the quality of care in the U.S. military. The film offers shocking numbers of soldier deaths as well as suicides that are caused by

overdosed drugs during their missions. One soldier is followed on his uneasy trip to withdraw the outrageous amount of prescribed medication.

Going deeper into the medication issue in the United States, the filmmakers outline the famous Avandia case, the hot-selling diabetes drug whose manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline ignored an increased risk of heart attack among trial patients. After a trial GlaxoSmithKline agreed to pay 3 billion U.S. dollars to settle United States government civil and criminal investigations. However, this company has never been sentenced of being guilty for many deaths that were directly or indirectly caused by their drugs.

Lastly this film tries to introduce the viewer to the whole healthcare industry system and its mechanism. Starting from a general practitioner and ending with executives at pharmaceutical companies it gives an overall picture of a system that has missed its main task, namely to help people.

I understand why it was hard to get tickets to this movie. There are no doubts that this topic is very sensitive and painful for many Americans. However, this matter seems to be overexposed recently and therefore feels somewhat exhausted. There is focus on too many issues at once and therefore it felt unfocused overall. But most of all it seemed to be overdramatic. Some moments it reminded of a bad Hollywood movie: ‘We’re in a deep trouble today, but we’re Americans therefore we’re going to make it! Already tomorrow we will start eating salad instead of junk food and everything will be fine again…’

Matthew Heinemann & Susan Froemke: Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare, USA, 99 mins,, 2011. Seen at Sundance 2012.


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Juste Eigminaite
Juste Eigminaite
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