By Megan Bianco

Documentaries are meant to be educational or just informative on a curiosity level. The ones centered on entertainment or sports such as “That’s Entertainment!” (1974), “Hoop Dreams” (1994) and “20 Feet from Stardom” (2013) tend to be the most enjoyable while also well documented. The political features along the lines of Michael Moore’s and Dinesh D’Souza’s, or even Leni Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will” (1935), can start to feel hazy and come across biased.

Documentaries are supposed to give us the impression of the truth, but unfortunately, it’s not that easy sometimes. Coming to theaters this Thanksgiving weekend, Jeff Reichert & Farihah Zaman’s “Remote Area Medical” pushes aside the political agendas and focuses on everyday people’s stories.

While politicians and voters have been arguing over health care since President Obama’s first term, many people are experiencing a lack of medical support right now.

For three days once a year in Bristol, Tenn., Remote Area Medical provides free medical or dental care to those who simply can’t afford insurance or even an emergency room visit.

Back in 2012, Reichert and Zaman interviewed and followed the rural residents and Remote Area Medical’s volunteers, documenting the community and the people, many in need of emergency surgery.

The documentary includes some unfortunate and bittersweet stories of Southerners who are afraid or sick of living without health assistance because they simply don’t have enough money. There are also some pretty gnarly close-ups and sequences of volunteer doctors and dentists performing medical services. The structure of the documentary can feel a bit redundant near the end, with so many similar stories of oppression and failing health, but the mood and feel the filmmakers are reaching for hits right home.

Only three days a year and so much work accomplished yet also much left for later. “Remote Area Medical” reminds us that human suffering is happening right here, right now.


Megan Bianco is a Southern California-based movie reviewer and content writer with a degree from California State University Northridge.

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