Fire in the Blood

FITB screenings in Geneva during the World Health Assembly

We had two outstanding screenings in Geneva this past week.

The first was at the Press Club of Switzerland, sponsored by the MSF Access Campaign.

It was a full house of around 150 people and the audience was exceptionally knowledgeable and attentive. Even though it came in the middle of the World Health Assembly (WHA), where people typically run between meetings, sessions and events the entire time, it was really gratifying to see the audience fully absorbed in the film, with only one or two people rushing off apologetically before the post-screening discussion (which went on for almost an hour) was finished. A number of people came up to me afterwards and told me they were in tears for much of the screening, something which always takes me a bit by surprise, to be honest, but especially so when the audience is so overwhelmingly ‘expert’ in nature, with a high proportion of the attendees having worked for years or in many cases even decades on issues of access to medicine.

The post-screening panel was comprised of Mohga Kamal-Yanni from Oxfam, Rohit Malpani from the MSF Access Campaign, Jamie Love from Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) and myself. The moderator was policy consultant Spring Gombe, who earlier worked with MSF, KEI and Health Action International.

It was a very lively and interesting discussion, the audience was totally international, with what seemed like dozens of countries represented, and much of the discourse focused on the need to ‘de-link’ incentives for pharmaceutical R&D from the price of end products, i.e., medicines. With the debate on a global R&D treaty raging during the WHA, this event and the screening of FITB could scarcely have been more timely or relevant.

The response to the film itself was extremely positive, with many people eager to find out how they could make use of it in their advocacy and educational work, and others interested in having it screened in their home countries and at various intergovernmental organisations.

Brittany Ngo and William New filed a report on the event for Intellectual Property Watch, which can be read here.

The next day it was much the same story at UNAIDS headquarters. Another excellent, highly knowledgeable, large, engaged, extremely international audience came to see the film and was exceptionally attentive. There was a big ovation at the end of the screening and a really good panel discussion with two HIV-positive people, both long active in the fight for access to AIDS medicine (and both of whom had very interesting insights and were full of praise for the film), as well as myself. The discussion went longer than planned, but again virtually nobody left and many people came up to talk with me afterwards.

After the experience at the WHA I definitely feel a renewed sense of energy and belief that this film can play a huge role in accomplishing something truly monumental. It can even be so valuable in terms of "re-engaging" people who have been working on or connected with these issues for many years, but who can often (as I was repeatedly told in Geneva) to some extent find themselves forgetting exactly what it is they are fighting for as they get bogged down in endless bureaucracy, negotiations and inertia -- and for these people Fire in the Blood can serve as a great wake-up call and reminder of what all of this is really about: human beings and the fundamental right to a healthy life.

- DMG -

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