By Sarah Eilers ~
Coming up September 24-26, the Healthy Scepticism Film Festival, a free virtual program organised by the Wellcome Trust, features a range of recent and historical films. The festival and the associated Healthy Scepticism project seek to understand and narrate the experiences of medicine’s critics, sceptics, antagonists, and dispossessed, past and present, and to translate these into positive health care change. Many of the historical films to be discussed are held by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) and/or presented in Medicine on Screen, the NLM’s curated portal to its historical audiovisual collections.
The festival features an organizer and several speakers who know NLM collections well. Caitjan Gainty, historian of medicine and healthcare at King’s College, London, and co-founder of the Healthy Scepticism project, is author of the 2019 Medicine on Screen essay, A Bit of Hollywood in the Operating Room. She has worked for the last year to pull the project and festival together and says about the topic, “Especially since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve begun to understand how important it is to take into account the views of those who are usually excluded from the mainstream narratives that saturate the debate around health and healthcare.”
The festival includes a Short Films Competition, an Artists-in-Residence Showcase, and the premiere of The UTI Documentary by Rita Conry, which tells the story of people living with acute, current or chronic UTIs, a condition that can be life-altering but is also routinely “disregarded, neglected, brushed over….” There will also be screenings of The Pain of Others, 2018, and Pink Ribbons, Inc. a 2011 film which investigates the “questionable commingling of marketing and philanthropy….”
Speaking on the panel “Our Favourite Historical Films” are Oliver Gaycken, project consultant and essayist for Medicine on Screen, David Cantor, formerly of the Office of NIH History and author of several Medicine on Screen essays, and Angela Saward, who recently presented the NLM History Talk Peril in the Air and contributed Air Pollution is a Human Problem to Medicine on Screen. Jesse Olszynko-Gryn, the fourth speaker on that panel, is a future Medicine on Screen essayist who will discuss the film Barefoot Doctors of Rural China, ca. 1975, which NLM is currently digitizing.
Festival panelists will discuss several historical films held by archives and libraries around the world, including the following which are available in NLM Digital Collections:
- Reward of Courage (1921)
- Combat Fatigue Irritability (1945)
- All My Babies: A Midwife’s Own Story (ca. 1952)
- It Takes Your Breath Away (1964)
- Nurse-Patient Interaction (1976)
- The Human Brain: A Dynamic View of its Structures and Organization (ca. 1976)
The free film festival will open Friday, September 24 at noon EST. The panel “Our Favourite Historical Films” will take place at 10 a.m. EST on Saturday September 25. Don’t miss this opportunity to explore health-related scepticism from multiple points of view as well as learn more about NLM’s film collections through the expertise of researchers who have studied them closely.
Sarah Eilers is the Manager of Historical Audiovisuals in the History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine.