Film Review: Bending the Arc

Film Review

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Bending the Arc

Director/Producer: Kief Davidson
Director/Editor: Pedro Kos
2017, 2 hrs 30 mins
Available at: http://bendingthearcfilm.com1517880926505ccb7faa5c9b3f0335e1a

“Bending the Arc” tells the story of Paul Farmer, his colleagues at Partners in Health, and how a tiny NGO in rural Haiti came to push the boundaries of what was possible in global health.

The film is based on the book “Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Tracy Kidder.  It offers a chronological history of Partners in Health and highlights how Farmer and his colleagues approached healthcare for the poor from a unique philosophical position.

In the film, Farmer offers many critiques of the way traditional development work and global health are framed saying, “appropriate technology just means shit for poor people and good things for rich people.”  He continually pushes viewers to challenge assumptions about healthcare for the poor.  The film also presents the claim that neo-liberalism and World Bank imposed austerity programs that have been forced upon low-resource countries have devastated the social and health infrastructure of these countries. At one point, Farmer expresses frustration with the often-quoted platitude, “it is better to teach a man to fish” because, as he says, “their ships are sunk”!  He seems to be saying, we cannot solve the healthcare problems of rural Haiti by training healthcare workers or increasing health literacy when the healthcare system as a whole is devastated by austerity programs.

Two Tweets, Two Different Takes on People

by Sonya de Laat

The Tweets:

UN Refugee Agency @Refugees Refugees. Ordinary people living through extraordinary times. Share Tahir’s story this #‎WRD trib.al/AaBPuqW pic.twitter.com/aOFOjAFPPc

Maptia @Maptia The Dani still wear penis sheaths, but they also keep their savings in banks: http://bit.ly/1e62clk by @Vlad_Sokhin

On June 11, two tweets came through my feed in close succession. Initially, both struck me as encouraging: they appeared to be moving toward more nuanced representations and away from flat, one-dimensional stereotypes. Upon closer inspection, the UN Refugee post about an “Architect. Husband. Builder.” is indeed about rendering refugees less hopeless and different. The photos of the Dani, on the other hand, continue the tradition in many photographic practices of exaggerating exoticism. The photographs by Vald Sokhin, a photographer represented by Panos, an agency dedicated to photography for social justice, are carefully composed portraits of individual Dani in traditional dress along with a prop of contemporary globalized life, e.g., can of pop or bank machine.