Fire In The Blood

Directed by Dylan Mohan Gray Club, IFI, Dublin, 84 min

Directed by Dylan Mohan Gray Club, IFI, Dublin, 84 min

Fri, Feb 22, 2013, 00:00

Directed by Dylan Mohan Gray Club, IFI, Dublin, 84 min

This angry documentary about the pharmaceutical industry’s slowness in making affordable retroviral drugs available to poorer Aids patients makes its case with cold, irrefutable logic. You might argue that it never quite flies as a motion picture: the storytelling is too flat, the arguments too bald. But only an unthinking monster could leave the cinema unmoved and unenlightened.

Dylan Mohan Gray’s debut feature certainly tells a necessary story. Many fine dramas and documentaries (including current Oscar nominee How to Survive a Plague) have touched upon the Aids crisis. Most have, however, focused on western communities. Indeed, Gray suggests that, once retroviral drugs began to increase life expectancy, too many Aids activists in the first world thought the battle won.

As the film makes clear, the medication is far too expensive for most patients in Africa, India and South America. A whole series of arguments for inaction are ruthlessly demolished. In one hearing, a US bureaucrat argues that, because Africans don’t have our sense of time, they wouldn’t know when to take their drugs.

Events eventually prove quite the reverse. A shrewd investigation into the economics of big pharma confirms that far more is spent on marketing than is put the way of research.

The film locates a number of heroes: James P Love, an American who questions the morality of patent law; Dr Peter Mugyenyi, head of a HIV treatment centre in Uganda; and, most impressive of all, Yusuf Hamied, an Indian scientist who ultimately enabled the drugs to be available at a reasonable price.

Fire in the Blood is focused acutely on his core subject. But the longer it goes on, the clearer it becomes that capitalism itself is to blame for the inequality. Solving that larger dilemma may require a longer film – and a great many more heroes.

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