|August 9, 2007
Michael Moore is probably the most well-known documentary filmmaker in the world. His last two films, Bowling For Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11, struck a cord with audiences. Whether you agreed with him or not, Moore’s movies generated much discussion in the media and in the general public.
In the three years since the release of Fahrenheit 9/11, Moore has been working on Sicko, a documentary which looks at the weaknesses in the U.S. health care system. Through his website, he asked people for their own “health care horror stories”. Moore received over 25,000 emails in the first week. Their tales helped create much of the material for this film.
The point Michael Moore is making in this film is that the health care system in the United States is fundamentally flawed. It is completely privatised and this creates two major problems. Firstly, there are many low income families who cannot afford health cover. Current estimates show that 45 million people are not insured. Secondly, for those that are covered, they often have to battle with their insurance companies to get their medical expenses paid. Why? Because insurance companies are owned by shareholders and it is in their best interests to deny as many claims as possible to increase profit.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) ranks the United States in 37th place when comparing the world’s health systems. It’s an interesting statistic when you consider that the United States is regarded as one of the world’s richest and most powerful nations. To find out why other countries are better, Moore heads overseas. He interviews people in France (ranked 1st), the United Kingdom (ranked 18th) and Canada (ranked 30th). It makes the U.S. system look even worse.
Whilst I agree that the U.S. health system has major problems, I have a few qualms with how Moore has presented his argument. In the three countries that he visits, he focuses heavily on the positives and opposed to the negatives. As I indicated above, Canada is only ranked 30th by the WHO and yet you’d think it was in the top 10 judging from the people Moore spoke to. Perhaps he should have focused more on France. I’m curious as to why it is ranked number 1.
It’s not perfect but Sicko is still a very potent movie-going experience. Some of the scenes will leave you laughing with shock. I particularly enjoyed a clip with George W. Bush where he speaks to a woman who has three jobs. Moore has a great knack for taking hundreds of hours worth of footage and picking just the right material to get his message across. His films are never boring and this is no exception.
Incidentally, the Australian health care system is ranked 32nd which doesn’t put it too far ahead of the United States. Based on what I’ve heard on the news for the past decade, it sounds like there’s more than enough material for an Australian documentary in the same mould. We don’t have the exact same problems as the Americans but we do have plenty of issues. It such a film was made, I’d certainly pay to see it.