Silence Is Deadly: Living With Hepatitis C:
Hepatitis comes with a huge stigma. It's one of those diseases that just sounds bad to the ear, and unnecessarily carries shameful weight. No one says they're ashamed to have cancer, but people will keep their hepatitis status secret from even their own families. With Silence Is Deadly, filmmaker Kindra Ruocco hopes to remove the stigma, increase awareness, and begin a process of healing for hepatitis C sufferers.
While documentaries on blood-borne diseases aren't high on most viewers' lists, Ruocco's effective and emotional effort should be checked out not only by those who are at risk, but anyone who wants to come to a better understanding about what it means to have a disease. It is estimated that as many as 5 million Americans (or perhaps double that) have or will contract hepatitis C in just a few years. A potentially fatal liver disease, hep C is contracted through the blood by the usual means, sharing needles, unsafe sex, blood transfusions, tattoos etc. In other words a huge number of people (as many as 1 in 15 people may have some form) could be at risk. The fact that many people may be carrying it unaware and with no ill effects, others may be suffering symptoms but not know why, and many have the disease but keep it a secret, makes Ruocco's message an urgent one.
We see the disease through the eyes of four who suffer from it, including the filmmaker. From all walks of life, these folks got the disease from risky lifestyles, transfusions, or experimental therapies in the late '60s - therapies in which the government may have knowingly infected tens of thousands of individuals. Each person tackles the illness and its ramifications in their own way, but all do it with passion and courage.
Passion, courage and evenhandedness are the hallmarks of Ruocco's exemplary documentary. She presents multiple and often conflicting points of view. From the man who advocates for the government to take responsibility to the activist who believes the government didn't know of the disease until the late '80s, to the conflicts between Eastern and Western medicinal approaches to treatment, all avenues are covered with thoroughness and without bias, even when certain views don't jibe with the filmmaker's own.
Silence Is Deadly shines a compassionate light on a shadowy disease, and puts a brave, proud and human face on those who suffer from an illness often kept secret. If you feel you may be at risk, are interested in growing health concerns, or just want to get a feel of what it's like to live with a debilitating, potentially fatal disease, you owe it to yourself to check out Silence Is Deadly.
The documentary is presented in a fullscreen 1.33:1 ratio, and combines interview and onsite footage from various years, including home movies of Ruocco, from the era when she got her fateful transfusion. Archival footage shows its age, but overall the quality of footage is excellent.
Audio is adequate, save for a number of incidences wherein voice-over narration drops in volume. I'm not sure what causes this, but it's a tad disconcerting, if mainly because you want to be sure you're hearing everything. It's a small quibble and shouldn't discourage you from viewing the documentary.
No extras other than Chapter Stops come with the 48 minutes of material.
Ruocco's documentary brings to the forefront a scary health concern, then renders it less so with the power of knowledge. Her comprehensive approach, astute interview subjects and emotionally charged examinations of patients (including herself) living with hepatitis C creates an engrossing viewing experience that will energize and empower you. If you see yourself anywhere in the above paragraphs, Silence Is Deadly is required viewing. While it's not a disc most will want to have at the ready in their permanent DVD collections, Rent It seems too small a praise, so the documentary is Recommended.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com