The art of medicine
During a time filled with bad news and uncertainty about the economic climate, the Health and Social Care Bill and Welfare Reform in the UK, I have chosen to write about something else. I make no apologies about this – it doesn’t mean I don’t care, but think we all need something positive to think about and look forward to – it’s what keeps up in our jobs as medics. Medfest, the UK’s only medical film festival started this month, going on tour around 16 universities across the UK, and I’ve been a bit of a groupie.... Earlier this month, I sat on the panel for the St George’s event, and then in the back with a glass of wine for King’s College .
The theme this year was ‘Healthscreen: Understanding Illness through Film’. The evening ran in 3 sections – films around how films are used in health promotion and public education, films made by patients and their advocates, and films from Hollywood.
The first included a public information film on childhood obesity from the 1960s. I cringed at points, as it was blunt, with scenes of overweight childhood not being danced with at parties, or getting out of breath playing sport, and there were a few giggles at the presenter saying ‘we all need a very small amount of those vegetables we keep hearing all about’. The doctor narrating frequently used the word ‘fat’ and at both events there was a long discussion about whether the use of euphemisms in medicine to avoid offence has led to messages not being very clear and understandable. What followed was shocking – Peter Byrne’s film ‘1 in 4’ which was shown in cinemas before 15 certificate feature films (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbe7RshHFiw), timed to coincide with World Mental Health Day in 2000. The graphic scenes of drug use at the start were intentionally included to get the advert a 15 certificate – so reaching the target audience of 15-20 year olds before 15 certificate films.
The second centred around depictions of obsessive compulsive disorder and featured a film by the fantastic animator (and psychologist) Andy Glynne (his work can be seen online at www.animatedminds.com and is well worth a look). A second film ‘Locked’ was featured, winner of ‘Best Public Awareness Film’ at the 2011 Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival (http://mhfestival.com/) and we were lucky to have writer and film maker Claire Geller at King’s, explaining how the film was to make on a background of her own experience of illness.
The third part looked at how Hollywood shapes our experience of illness, and affect public perception, focussing on infectious diseases. We saw clips from Contagion, a 2011 thriller about the spread of an imaginary flu like illness, which has been widely credited for what Yamey and Hwang called ‘An Outbreak of Scientific Accuracy’ in the BMJ (BMJ 2011;343:d6733, http://www.bmj.com/content/343/bmj.d6733?tab=full). We then saw a clip from a classic, Philadelphia, the 1993 film starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington about a man with AIDS wrongfully dismissed from his law film.
Both events were expertly chaired by Dr Rory Conn, lead for Medfest 2012, and the panellists (which vary between sites) include a real variety of doctors, film makers. Paul Viragh (film maker), Dr Max Pemberton (psychiatrist and journalist) and Dr Danny Ruta (director of public health for South East London and film maker) were fantastic panellists at the George’s and King’s events, giving an insight into what it is like working in film and public health, and in the public eye.
The 16 events across the country had over 1000 attendees between them. Look out for next year's event, and email email@example.com if you would like to be involved next year. More information on panellists, venues and films is available at: www.medfest.co.uk and on twitter @Medfest
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