widescreen – An infected SiCKO

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Meet Michael Moore, an award-winning documentary filmmaker. His latest film, SiCKO, is about the American healthcare system and how, as an industry, it stacks up against other, more universal systems throughout the world.

Moore begins his documentary by introducing several Americans who encountered unbelievable trouble when their health took a turn for the worse: Adam, who had an accident; Rick, who lost two fingertips while working with a table saw; Larry and Donna Smith, whose mounting medical bills forced them out of their home; and many, many more. And all of whom, we learn, contacted Moore after he solicited personal stories via his Web site.

From those denied basic medical services, to those bankrupted by mind-boggling co-payments, people bombarded Moores e-mail with stories. And Moore picked the best of the worst for SiCKO a parade of American healthcare failures. A bleak result of, as Moore says, a system instituted long ago by former President Richard Nixon. A system that, as SiCKO shows, strives to deny life-saving services, medicines and treatments in order to save … money.

Moores understated thesis in SiCKO becomes clearly evident when, forty minutes or so into the film, he follows one of his subjects across the Canadian border to catch a glimpse of their publicly funded healthcare.

Ah, universal healthcare. Canada has it, the United Kingdom, we learn, has it. France subsidizes it. And, as Moore tells us, Cuba revels in it, as every Havana city block has a doctor and or pharmacy. It is a heavenly picture of how the rest of the world chooses to tend to their sick.

But, as I watched Moore bumble with mystified confusion throughout his whirlwind tour of socialized medicine and free hospital stays, I could not help but wonder: if these state-sponsored systems are so great, so easy and so free, why has the United States not emulated them? Can the insurance company lobbyists and pharmaceutical companies really have bought Congress, as Moore asserts?

Yes to the second, but not so fast on the assumption of the first.

The underlying infection, if you will, in SiCKO is that its thesis is based on Moores opinion that universal healthcare is the answer to all Americas ills. But a quick Google search reveals that many people, even those in the countries he lauds, would not be so quick to agree. But instead of using his horror stories to examine the problem and possible solutions to Americas undeniable healthcare problem, Moore chooses to contrast our worst with other countries best; hardly the stuff of hard hitting documentaries.

Moore then further editorializes, and politicizes, the film by choosing to never miss an opportunity to poke President Bush in the festering wounds of Iraq; even going so far as to use 9/11 rescue workers as pawns in a championing of Cuba and its communist dictator, who, according to Moore, is not such a bad guy; merely just the wrong dictator in the wrong place an assertion too absurd to even debate.

As hard as it is to judge SiCKO as a film, it can ultimately be seen as a success because its subject matter and brazen one-sidedness are bound to reach the goal of sparking a much needed political debate at least for a little while. And while Moore expertly wrote and directed the film from a technical standpoint, it is difficult to dissect the films merits without running into its fallacies. It is just unfortunate that an opportunity for informed debate turns invective and fear monger-ish so fast; making SiCKO more of a smug editorial than objective documentary.

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