“Extremis”, end-of-life care; “Conflict”, photographers explain their calling in filming war

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Today, two more major documentaries on Netflix.

Extremis”, by Dan Krauss, 24 minutes, f/8 filmworks, records in real time the agonizing end-of-life decisions for several patients at end of life (I think in Chicago).  One is a homeless man, and two are African-American women surrounded by family, and one is a 38-year-old white woman.

The film is shot in Highland Hospital (Rochester, NY). It starts with a doctor trying to get a patient to write down what bothers her because she can’t talk over intubation. As the film progresses, the cases involve whether to keep patients intubated with breathing tubes.  Patients might linger for six months, into a vegetative state, or might live a day or two breathing on their own with family around them (in two cases).

Capital Hospice writes that it is important for family members to stay at the bedside of loved ones even when they are unconscious while passing away naturally.  There is more indirect evidence than ever that the soul gradually stays around before merging into an afterlife.  I’m not sure I could say I complied with that.

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Conflict” (35 min, Ridflix), directed by Nick Fitzhugh, seems to be a “mini-mini-series” of reports from six conflict journalists about their work.   There is some interchangeability between the concept of “journalist” and “photographer”.

The strongest statement may come from Peter Moeller, who goes first, reporting from South Sudan.  Moeller says it is ironic that one the world’s youngest nations has the same hyperindividualistic position on self-defense (and “take care of your own first”) as the world’s leading democracy.  He says he is a conflict photographer and not a combat journalist for its own sake. He says that journalism should be service, and should be personal.  His message to his subject is “let me represent you.”  That sounds like something said in a sermon by youth at a local Presbyterian church here in northern Virginia back in 2012, almost the same speech.  (That church actually has an indirect ministry in that country.)  He also says that war is quiet, that it slowly eats lives away.

The next journalist is Jiao Silva, from South Africa, who reports first on the post-Apartheid violence in Johannesberg  (“Jo-berg”) and then from Kandahar in Afghanistan.  If I follow right, he is the person who loses both legs in combat and walks out in the last scene, long pants, on prosthetics.

The next journalist, Donna Ferrato, reports on domestic violence from New York City.  She gets into situations where she needs to intervene physically.  She encounters husbands who think they “own” their wives.  So some of the rest of us think we’re better than that.

There follows Nicole Tung, who, based in NYC, travels to Syria and crosses illegally from Turkey.  She loses two male reporter friends, the second of whom is beheaded publicly by ISIS.

Robin Hammond reports on the internal violence in the Congo, which, as Anthony Bourdain had explained in a CNN “Parts Unknown”, is indirectly a result of colonialism.  He notes the unfairness of life, and says “ignorance is not an alibi for inaction”, a aphorism that motivates his work.  He thinks he really makes a difference.

But Eros Hoagland, reporting from Mexico and Central America, sees his own profession as a bit of a spectator sport, that could get him killed.  He says, “we fear wolves because we never see them.” True, he rails against corruption in Central America as the reason why drug cartels run the countries.  But he says, if you want to help people, become a doctor and go overseas to poor countries.  I’m reminded of the doctors (and even one journalist) who got Ebola in Liberia and fortunately all recovered with intensive care back in the US or in Britain.

YouTube  preview link is here but disables embedding.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture from Syria-Turkey border by Kevorkmail, CCSA 3.0.

(Published: Friday, September 16, 2016 at 10:15 PM EDT)

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