DAVID BIANCULLI

Founder / Editor

ERIC GOULD

Associate Editor

LINDA DONOVAN

Assistant Editor

KARLE DUNBAR

Social Media Manager

Contributors

ALEX STRACHAN

TOM BRINKMOELLER

GERALD JORDAN

MONIQUE NAZARETH

CANDACE KELLEY

GABRIELA TAMARIZ

DAVID SICILIA

NOEL HOLSTON

JONATHAN STORM

 
 
 
 
 
"Under Our Skin" Documentary Deserves National TV Exposure
February 22, 2010  | By David Bianculli
 

lyme-warning-tick-sign-TOP.jpgIt took Andy Abrahams Wilson four years to film the patients, doctors and controversies documented in his nonfiction film Under Our Skin, about the hotly argued sources and treatments of Lyme disease. Another year has passed since its first theatrical showing -- and it's time for a national TV program or network to step up and televise it...

Under Our Skin, produced by Open Eye Pictures, takes what seems to be a straightforward subject -- the spread and treatment of Lyme disease -- and turns it into a detective story, a romance, an inspirational drama, a conspiracy thriller and a science lesson, all in one.

lyme-ticks.jpgHad writer-director-photographer Wilson selected his subject, swooped in, gathered evidence and left, his movie would have only a fraction if its power. By sticking around for years, and tracking both the degeneration and the improvements of certain patients, Under Our Skin presents a more complete case. And, in the end, an unforgettable one.

The science of Lyme disease isn't avoided or underplayed. Under the microscope, we learn of spirochetes and biofilms. In the woods, we walk with a Lyme expert who casually sweeps a white cloth along the ground, and effortlessly gathers male, female and nymph ticks. In newspaper and TV reports, we are reminded of the origin of the disease's name, and recent fights over the proper treatment and diagnosis of Lyme disease.

lyme-trees-suburbia.jpg

After a while, the overhead shots of idyllic autumn landscapes, whether unblemished forests or tree-laden suburbs, take on a tone that is less serene than sinister. And through home movies and years of Wilson's own photography, we get to know lots of people who insist they suffer from Lyme disease -- and see them at such polar opposites of health that empathy is unavoidable.

lyme-mandy-top.jpgThere's Mandy, for example, a beautiful woman whose wedding video shows a vibrant young lady -- but who, when we meet her, is reduced to floating in a swimming pool to get any sense of relief. Over the course of the documentary, she gets much worse -- then, after changing doctors and medications, much better.

Other patients are shown, and other doctors heard from. One of the things this documentary does so well is gather the shared experiences of all these patients into rapid-file strings of testimony, filmed the same way over a light grey background. Number of doctors seen? Different types of diagnoses? Total amount of medical costs? Persistent symptoms? They all answer the same questions, and their answers really add up.

lyme-basement.jpgOne fascinating figure in Under Our Skin is Dr. Alan MacDonald, who has dedicated decades of his life to disproving the prevailing medical theory that Lyme disease is "easy to treat, easy to cure." In a makeshift laboratory in his home basement, he keeps looking for clues to prove his idea that Lyme is a chronic illness -- and, eventually, finds and publishes a report linking Lyme to such accepted, but as yet unexplained, chronic diseases as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

And just when certain doctors are shown offering treatments which appear to help their patients with long-suffering Lyme symptoms, those same doctors are attacked -- accused of malpractice and judged by medical boards. The motives for these peer reviews may have something to do with insurance companies and health-care costs, which makes this documentary very timely, as well as quite infuriating.

The last third of Under Our Skin may, so to speak, tick you off. But it also is very heartening, offering hope merely by taking the time and effort to follow its subjects through years of controversial treatment. What happens to them should be seen by everyone.

As should this feature-length documentary. It appears to be a fine fit for Frontline, P.O.V. or Independent Lens on PBS, or as part of HBO's already impressive commitment to nonfiction filmmaking, or a good acquisition by any cable network looking to enhance its own schedule and reputation. Here's hoping, before long, you can see what I've seen, and be similarly educated and impressed.

 

32 Comments

 

Suzanne said:

Thanks for posting such a great review. I own this video and after watching it, I felt like telling everyone I knew about it. Hopefully this post will reach many, many, people.

Thanks,
Suzanne

Comment posted on February 22, 2010 2:26 PM


tracey silver said:

Thank you for this wonderful write up on Under Our Skin. I too think this documentary should be viewed on PBS, Frontline, HBO. It is such an important film and a must to be seen. It can help to save so many lives. Maybe NPR can do a live interview of Andy. The word needs to get out about Lyme Disease. Yes I do have Lyme and had I seen Andys film 13 years ago, I probably would not have been battling the disease all these years. Knowledge is Power. Thank you again!
Sincerely,
Tracey Silver

Comment posted on February 22, 2010 2:29 PM


kaiti said:

Thanks David, for your comprehensive review of Under Our Skin.
I agree it's a needed fit for HBO and frontline would do well to take the stance of making it visible.
Your TV criticism is welcome and needed.

Comment posted on February 22, 2010 2:31 PM

Amy said:

Great review of this important documentary. Thanks for highlighting it on your blog!

Comment posted on February 22, 2010 2:33 PM


Tammie Hayley said:

This dvd really meant a lot to me because at the time i heard about it and ordered it i was going through it it took five years for me to be properly diagnosed so i thank everyone involved in making this documentary because i know it had to take a lot of work. It also made me feel like i was not alone so thanks to all of you!

Comment posted on February 22, 2010 2:41 PM


Beverley said:

Thank you so much for this review. I look forward to seeing this movie!

Comment posted on February 22, 2010 3:04 PM


John Fasy said:

Thank you so much for sharing your views on "Under Our Skin". I hope you will fight for your beliefs. My two daughters and my wife and I have all had Lyme Disease. Fortunately my daughters and I after long courses of IV antibiotics have recovered with little of the disease's symptoms remaining other than the fear and knowledge that it may reemerge stronger than ever when we are least expecting it. My wife Helen, unfortunately was not so lucky. Undiagnosed for over five years after seeing a bullseye rash on her thigh the size of a nerf football doctors dismissed it as a spider bite. When finally acccurately diagnosed she was undertreated while the bacterium continued to take over her body and invade her nervous system. An ear ache that presented with no visible pathology led to several unnecessary surgeries by doctors who were taking advantage of her cry for relief from the excrutiating pain which was now spreading to her face and her mouth. Nine tooth extractions, three root canals, sinus surgery, and TMJ surgery were all performed without cause or evidence of pathology.
Is it any wonder the medical establishment wants to keep this disease hidden? It is a goldmine for so many medical franchises from neurological syndromes, to dentists, to ENTs, to psychologists, and psychiatrists, etal, not to mentions the drug companies who sell drugs to treat the symptoms. No one is motivated to cure anything. There is no money in a cure. Today she is stable so long as she takes opiates to keep the pain at a tolerable level. However the symptoms continue to spread across her body. A highly intelligent and energetic RN at the age of 40, she is now on medicare at 57 because she cannot work. While antibiotics and anti-malarials have put her in remission for periods of time over the past 15 years, she is today a sad remnant of herself. She has lost 50% of the strength on her left side and a few years ago the damage crossed the midline and has taken away 30% of her strength on the right side. Her hormones are completely out of whack causing weight gain, mood swings, and fatigue. Her pain is everwhere and suicidal without meds.
Meanwhile we have fought insurance companies non stop to receive the coverage we were paying for. Bankruptcy, emotional and economic has destroyed our lives. Even with insurance we paid on average $25K-$30K per years over and above what insurance paid.
Meanwhile Helen continues to be amazingly strong trying to make the most out of what this disease has left her. An unhealthy distorted body, short term memory loss that is extreme, horrific pain, damaged systems thoughout her body, swollen joints, fluid retention in her hands, legs, and feet. Since we no longer have the $30K per year extra or even $1 extra she goes without many of the treatments that doctors could offer but don't even bother to mention any longer. Of course insurance doesn't cover them.
THis disease is worse than anyone could imagine and I applaud you for having the openness to see the truth and to support the need for the world to see this movie.
However, I imagine that the same interests who have killed the healthcare bill will make sure that this movie never plays to a large audience. Big Pharma and Big Insurance have control of our society and are destroying our country. Lyme is only a little recognized icon for the much bigger problem we all face. The chickens will come home to roost if our government doesn't do something to retake our government. I fear however that there is too much money floating around in govnerment to ever get any significant laws changed or bills passed. And Obama, who I once saw as a savior who understood the issue and was willing to go to the ends of the earth to change things in a meaningful way, now appears to be a weak president who isn't willing to stand on his desk and utter the words we all want to say; "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore."
I would fear violent uprisings by the people to be in our future, but the "people" seem to be too lazy and too sick to do anything except to accept the farce of a government we have been left with.
Shall we start the revolution without them?
[Thanks for sharing your frustrating, but instructive, story. Good luck to you. -- David B.]

Comment posted on February 22, 2010 3:30 PM


lynn said:

thank you david...

Comment posted on February 22, 2010 3:47 PM


Nancy said:

Thank you so much for this great review. Us "Lymies" need ALL the exposure and support we can get. God Bless You!

Nancy

Comment posted on February 22, 2010 4:06 PM


tara said:

This movie was every bit as wonderful as this review states.

Comment posted on February 22, 2010 4:14 PM


Debbie Black said:

We live in a tick infested area and my son has been very ill for a long time. It has been so difficult to watch him slip away from the whole family as he retreats into a world of confusion, depression, pain, headaches, vision problems...
What caused his breakdown was the deep confusion and controversy over the disease that he had contracted. He discovered at a young age that no one could agree on how to treat him or whether he even had a disease. He has been to so many doctors. Poor kid.

Comment posted on February 22, 2010 4:43 PM


Melodi said:

Thanks so much for highlighting the documentary film, Under Our Skin. Having lived this particular story for at least 17 1/2 years(intensely so for the past 10 months, due to a new infection), I am encouraged to see this issue recieving more attention. It is hard not to become cynical and hopeless when you personally experience or watch loved ones suffer from a debilitating disease for years, recieving criminal neglect, going from doctor to doctor, battling for insurance coverage and shelling out thousands of dollars while those courageously treating patients are attacked and hounded out of medical practice by those who hold ownership of the patented bacteria, who benefit financially from the stranglehold put on futher research by the medical establishement. We all hope that this documentary and others like it will spur on honest and diligent research needed to deal with this insidious disease.

Again, thanks for the review.

Comment posted on February 22, 2010 5:13 PM


H Mack said:

Thank you so much for this review! After nearly five years of being debilitated by neurological issues and profound fatigue, I got my Lyme diagnosis last year just ahead of the release of Under Our Skin - the movie is an important introduction to an epidemic relatively few people have heard of.

Comment posted on February 22, 2010 5:17 PM


Mary Virginia said:

As a lyme patient, I cannot thank you enough for your review and for your passionate appeal for a mass viewing of Under Our Skin via cable or PBS. Unfortunately, I have yet to view the film as I am disabled, unable to work, and therefore unable to afford the cost of purchase. I greatly appreciate your advocacy.

Sincerely,
Mary Virginia

Comment posted on February 22, 2010 5:21 PM


Nichole Jordan said:

I am glad you blogged on this, I have Lyme Disease that took 1 1/2 years for me to find a doctor that figured out what was wrong with me and started me on treatment. I too agree more awareness needs to be brought to this subject. I am planning a community showing where I live. Thanks for helping to spread the word!

Comment posted on February 22, 2010 5:24 PM


Jayne Shea said:

Thank you for acknowledging the significance of Under Our Skin, and for your astute review of Andy Abrahams Wilson's work. Hopefully, national television will see the value in this film as you do.

Jayne Shea

Comment posted on February 22, 2010 6:13 PM


Shirley said:

Thank you so much for your fine critique of "Under our Skin". I am a big fan of my public television, don't like to miss frontline. We live in Washington State and my daughter was diagnosed with Lyme disease after two years of illness and numerous doctors and neurologists. I kept hearing "we don't have Lyme disease in Washington". They were wrong and my daughter is currently receiving treatment. I will await a showing of "Under my Skin" on my public television station.

Comment posted on February 22, 2010 6:42 PM


Kim Garst said:

I would love for this to appear on PBS... my 11 year old son suffered for 9 months with an unexplained rash that would appear randomly - but be so painful it felt like fire on his skin, and the pain would literally take his breath away and we'd have to call the ambulance to transport him to the hospital... after seeing approx 8 specialists, the 3rd neurgologist we saw finally felt he wasn't properly treated when the bulls-eye rash appeared when he was 8 years old. With a new antiobiotic given for 60 days straight, the rashes have not appeared for over a year. But I remain very concerned that his body isn't completely rid of the disease, and worry about the future for him. Lyme Disease needs to gain respect in the medical community!

Comment posted on February 22, 2010 6:57 PM


Kathryn Brennan said:

Thank You so much David, so many people commented on facebook feed. Thanks you. I am trying not to lose hope myself. LIve in NJ. Dr's that are lyme literate are difficult to come by, and try to go to a hospital for an emergency, they think nothing else is going on with you. EVEN if I tell them I went undiagnosed, and have stage 3. Goodness. pleas everyone pray for everyone.

Comment posted on February 22, 2010 7:09 PM


Max said:

Why wait? You can buy the DVD from the film's website.

Comment posted on February 22, 2010 7:33 PM


Kathy Stearns said:

Many,many thanks to you.

Comment posted on February 22, 2010 9:47 PM


Tessa McCall said:

Thank you so much for your review-taking the time to put light on such an important documentary. My story reads like thousands of others out there. I told someone that going to a Lyme Literate doctor is like getting an abortion in the 60's - Hiding and in secrecy so the state medical board doesnt come in and rip my life line from practicing medicine. Something needs to give here. I am appalled when I look at hearings from 1993 when Congress swore they would do something about this. The clutter is being moved out but I am not sure how long the sick can wait. Thanks so much!

Comment posted on February 22, 2010 10:21 PM


C Albert said:

Thank you for taking the time to give our cause a voice. I too have Lyme Disease, and it is terribly painful and debilitating. Add to that the numerous obstacles preventing Lyme sufferes from getting diagnosed accurately and treated effectively, and it's a real nightmare. I wish more doctors were better informed about the persistent nature of Lyme infection and the benefits of prolonged antibiotic therapy on those infected. Your review is a step in the right direction. Thank you for your help.

Comment posted on February 22, 2010 10:32 PM


Tina Marti said:

Thanks for such a great review. I have purchased this film, and I just watched it again yesterday. It perfectly depicts how bad healthcare can severely overshadow good and ethical physicians fulfilling their purpose in life. We need to educate physicians across the nation, and around the world. Lyme disease destroys lives, and it nearly put me under. Luckily, I found an ALLERGIST who would listen to me, when the true experts in this field would not. And, today, I can see my life coming back after nearly 3 years of being "lost to lyme."

Thank you!

Comment posted on February 22, 2010 11:21 PM


Natasha Moiseyev said:

Thank you for this. Lyme has destroyed the lives of me, my husband, and two daughters. Lyme "doesn't exist" in the SF Bay Area; my daughters "don't have" coinfections; and there is no such thing as sexually transmitted Lyme or congenital Lyme. For a disease that doesn't exist, is hard to get and easy to cure, it sure has decimated our lives and resources. Thank you for bringing it to the public's attention AGAIN. I hope it will be aired publicly before too long thanks to your efforts.

Comment posted on February 23, 2010 12:45 AM


Jondi said:

David, this is great; I think that movie deserves a wide replay, too. And not just for those of us who live in the traditional Lyme Disease areas. Thanks for an informative and compelling 'public service' by championing 'the good stuff'.
J. Whitis

Comment posted on February 23, 2010 7:20 AM


mary bolton said:

yes lyme disease is very bad the board don't know what they are doing unless they must be helping the ins.company instead of helping the people who have it.

Comment posted on February 23, 2010 11:02 AM


Kathy Kearney said:

Thanks for this. I am a lyme patient and I worry often that my doctor will lose her license in WA and have to move to another state to practice where she will be protected legally. I have seen the film and think it's a great idea for TV viewing.

Comment posted on February 23, 2010 11:36 AM


Amy said:

Thanks you so much for recognizing this important subject! I was in silence suffering for 10 years, until I could not walk, had constant seizures and was paralyzed. Now, 3 years after the CORRECT diagnosis (lyme, babesia, bartonella, candida, etc.) (and bankrupt from high doc bills and insurance not covering treatment) I am on the mend and doing better and better as time goes by! It's people like you that will change the system, and raise awareness so sick people can get the appropriate diagnosis and help and not suffer as bad as many of us have! Thank you, thank you, and please keep talking about this! Our small sick voices are trying but no one is listening to us...thanks you!

Comment posted on February 23, 2010 3:57 PM


jane riddle said:

Thank you so much for shining light on this subject.....I am a Lyme's patient....I have been active and vibrant my whole life....a dancer, a Pilates instructor and Lyme Disease changed my life......I went through all the horrors of finding a knowledgable physican willing to treat me....the countless physicians who told me that I really should see a therapist.... the downward spiral of my health.....here's the real nightmare:
1. no uniform testing
2. no uniform treament
3. no uniform measure of treatment
4. NO RESEARCH CURRENTLY BEING DONE

It's a epidemic and it will only get worse....until enlightened activists will listen to what is happening and demand change.....I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the power of your words...hopefully things will get better for others......you have done the Lyme Community a great service.....
Sincerely
Jane Riddle

Comment posted on February 23, 2010 6:53 PM


Sheri Mahood said:

Thank you for writing this review! The more voices that speak out about this issue - the sooner the message will be heard: WE NEED BETTER DIAGNOSING AND TREATMENT!!!

Comment posted on March 2, 2010 6:06 PM


Renee V said:

Hi.

Thank you for your review of this documentary. This disease has been so painful to myself as well as others in my extended family. I have tried to get the pbs station near me to show it since I believe it could help people like me know early enough to not have any neurological damage.

I got to it too late.

RV

Comment posted on May 7, 2010 5:21 PM
 
 
 
 
 
Leave a Comment: (No HTML, 1000 chars max)
 
 Name (required)
 
 Email (required) (will not be published)
 
 Website (optional)
 
VKGRS
Type in the verification word shown on the image.
 
 

Good news, TVWW readers: David’s new book from Doubleday, The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to The Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific is available on Amazon for $20. (Paperback will be available September 5th, here.)

Doubleday says: “Darwin had his theory of evolution, and David Bianculli has his. Bianculli's theory has to do with the concept of quality television: what it is and, crucially, how it got that way."

"The Platinum Age of Television is an effusive guidebook that plots the path from the 1950s’ Golden Age to today’s era of quality TV. For instance, animation evolved from Rocky and His Friends to South Park; variety shows moved from The Ed Sullivan Show to Saturday Night Live; and family sitcoms grew from I Love Lucy to Modern Family. A high point is the author’s interviews with Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Norman Lear, Bob Newhart, Matt Groening, Larry David, Amy Schumer and many others...Bianculli has written a highly readable history." —The Washington Post

 

This Day in TV History

 
 
 

Dispatches From TVWW