By Gregory Crofton
Documentary filmmakers are increasingly doing it all themselves — making the movie, then marketing and distributing it, instead of hiring an outside company to do the work. They are taking their films on the road, like a band would a new record.
They’ve got merchandise too: T-shirts and DVDs, and digital downloads for sale. Documentary film director Michael Graziano is in the middle of a screening tour for Resistance (the trailer is included with this link) – a new film about how the pervasive use of antibiotics in many aspects of life today is causing bacteria to more quickly become resistant to these drugs that we rely on to save the day.
“Resistance” played to a nearly full house at Vanderbilt University’s Sarratt Cinema and was well-received. Following the screening, there was question-and-answer session that included the director, two medical doctors and a cattleman who had eschewed the use of antibiotics.
The documentary is slick and interesting at 72 minutes despite its off-putting subject matter. Cool microscopic images of antibiotics in action, clear colorful charts and graphs, and a modern ambient soundtrack shine up the film. Its core is made up interviews with doctors, industry professionals and tales of bacterial infections taking hold.
Antibiotics are prescribed by doctors too much when they are not needed, sprinkled all over the agriculture/livestock industry to no real medical gains, and found in many household products. These trends need to change, according to the film, before there aren’t any more new antibiotics to discover and bring to market.
Despite evidence related to the ills of antibiotic overuse, economic factors continue to make the situation worse. People make a lot of money selling antibiotics. “Resistance” shows a leading Food and Drug Administration official seem powerless and befuddled when he’s questioned about the lack of unbiased data related to the amount of antibiotics used in the livestock industry.
Something can be done to improve the situation. Medical doctors need to be more careful in writing prescriptions for antibiotics – viruses should not be treated with the drugs, only bacterial infections. And livestock producers need to phase out their industry standards that allow general and heavy use of antibiotics. In addition to adding them to feed to keep animals “healthy,” the livestock industry also relies on the drugs to increase growth rates of cattle, chickens and hogs. (“Resistance” doesn’t explore the issue of growth hormones in meat and how it may differ from the growth effect of antibiotics.)
Despite the scope of the problem, there was some hopeful news announced this week by Perdue. The livestock giant said it is changing the way it operates by no longer using antibiotics in hatcheries, one step of many the company has taken in the last decade to reduce its use of antibiotics.
During the Q&A after the screening, an audience member announced he was ready to become a vegetarian because of what he learned from the documentary. Me, I’ll be scrutinizing my soap and that spray bottle at the gym.