Michael Moore’s Sicko (2007)

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Last night I watched Michael Moore’s latest documentary Sicko (2007). Whilst Moore is often criticised for his left-wing bias I have followed his work since The Awful Truth television series and find it to be enjoyable if a little self-indulgent at times. I do not deny that his renowned documentaries Bowling for Columbine (2002) and Fahrenheit 9/11 (2005) are well made and help bring serious issues to the mainstream but they are very one-sided. After all, most documentaries are biased in some fashion since they tend to offer an account of an event or person.

Sicko, however, is different. Moore looks at the state of healthcare in America and in particular the farcical role of health insurance companies. I remember when I visited Texas in 1988 and witnessed a car drive into the side of a house. The emergency services promptly arrived on the scene but did not attend to the wounded driver. Surprised by this, my dad asked the policeman why they were not doing offering medical assistance, the policeman responded: “They need to find out if he has medical insurance before they can do anything.” Even at a young age I was perplexed by this notion that you could not be given medical assistance unless you have insurance. But this is how it is in America. A large number of Americans do not have health insurance simply because they can not afford it. Moore also presents to us the fact that those with health insurance who get serious illnesses will have their medical histories carefully checked to see if they are in breach of their initial contract. If they are found to be in breach they will not be entitled to medical care. There are a number of unbelievable, and is some case heart-wrenching, stories that will make those of us in England very grateful for our NHS.

Moore looks at countries such as the UK, France and Canada who have national healthcare. Whilst he never goes into any real detail on how people pay for this service in each of these different countries he still provides a solid case on why America, the richest country in the world, should offer socialised healthcare to it’s citizens.

The typical Moore closing set-piece is present. He takes a number of 9/11 rescue workers who have been shunned medical care in the US to Cuba, who coincidentally have one of the better healthcare systems in the world, where they receive high quality medical attention for their various ailments and can buy medication at insanely cheap prices. Whilst one should question the motives behind this particular set-piece and whether Cuba used this as a media event it is nevertheless sad to see a country identified as a US enemy offering medical help to US heroes. It is both poignant and illuminating rather than self-indulgent on Moore’s part.

There are some other great moments such as the interview with the wonderful, yet seemingly ageless, Tony Benn and Moore sending an anonymous $12,000 cheque to the webmaster of the ‘I Hate Michael Moore’ website to pay for his wife’s medical care. This is without doubt one of the best documentaries I have ever seen and it is easily Moore’s best work to date. It is a must see film and I know that I will definitely not moan about the NHS again after seeing what the alternative would be.

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