With the recent success of Dallas Buyers Club at this year’s Oscars, its clear that the story of those suffering from AIDS is still one worthy of cinematic portrayal. However, like many films that use the tragic condition as the centre of a story, it is personal stories of a particular time (predominantly the 1980s) that are most common. Fire in the Blood reveals the real life state of AIDs on a worldwide scale and brings the subject right up to this day, with the harrowing documentation of greed and heartlessness at the highest levels of the medical profession.
In a world where millions die as a result of AIDS related illnesses, this documentary sets out to point the finger at those unwilling to lifts theirs: the Western pharmaceutical industry. This quietly horrifying film documents how big business has willfully blocked the development of cheap antiretroviral (ARV) drugs for years, and the astounding efforts of a small group of individuals to change the fate of millions dying in the third world. The film’s subjects range from Dr. Yusuf Hamied, head of the Indian pharmaceutical company Cipla, to Desmond Tutu, and even Bill Clinton, all of whom are used to making the case against an industry that values profit over life, keeping affordable medication away from those that need it most.
The film sets out from the beginning to incite outrage, laying out a wide range of facts and figures to shock and infuriate. This tactic is both compelling and effective, driving the film on with evidence to prove the relationship between Big Pharma and Washington, the lack of responsibility to help a part of the world in desperate circumstances, and the tireless efforts of a small group around the world to make a difference. There is no defence given for this activity, and rightly so, as Fire in the Blood is determined to shine a light on the most devastating practices of humanity, and it is not something that should be turned away from.
The determination of the documentary to repeatedly make its point known does however detract from its cinematic quality. Director Dylan Mohan Gray is content to lay out his exposé in detail, failing to give the subject the visual drive needed. Basic film-making and an almost bland structure do not detract from the importance of the film’s content, but neither do they add to what is a devastating story told almost too plainly.