Monday, June 24, 2013

LAFF 2013: Code Black Review

Director Ryan McGarry introducing the film for the fourth time
Code Black the documentary that made LA Film Festival record books by having 4 showings is a gripping look at the old and new ways the LA County Hospital deals with patients and on a wider scale healthcare in America. Just announced as the Best Documentary of the LA Film Festival this year the film plunges you into a emergency room situation with a man cut open being worked on by a huge staff of doctors and nurses. After this moment dies down the film goes through the doctors who run the LA County Hospital's emergency room, the reasons why they want to help and how frustrating the system can be.

Code Black is a thoughtful look at how painful it is to be a doctor in the emergency room and though the action starts high with a helicopter ride and emergency lights the audience will get frustrated and tired along with the doctors it follows by how the film dips not into more action drama  or a code black situation where there are non-stop numbers of patients to the emergency room. The paperwork, logging in and lack of staff with even more issues of budget numbs you and saddens you with the doctors trying to fix it.

We see how C Bus, the Emergency Room of LA County Hospital started, how fast paced it was and how intimate it was for doctors and patients as floor space was open anywhere and anyone injured would be pulled in with blood soaking the floor. Then we step forward a few years with the same doctors we saw early on at C Bus now at the new LA County Hospital with space and privacy. I'll give credit for a great example of transition from new to old with a ride-able floor cleaner, replacing a simple mop used to clean up blood  at the old hospital vs the new one.Gained with it are tiresome paperwork, logging in for every instance and the loss of patient to doctor intimacy.This is the way hospitals are now all over the country we're told. Places where doctors spend more time on paperwork than patients.

Some shocking moments here and there, but  they are belittled by the reuse of the same moments over and over again. Great personal moments of why these men and woman became doctors showoff why the want to save people. It's almost cheesy, but their reasons seem right out of a medical drama on TV. The film still is just a doc, crafted with some footage that makes you ill about how our healthcare system isn't working by an institution here in LA that is very different from other hospitals as it's open to anyone. The emergency rooms scenes aren't even that long compared to what stays with you. Waiting rooms filled with sick and hurt people assigned numbers on a computer having to wait sometimes up to 18 hours.

The film never felt like 18 hours, but it was still cut by a young director. Pacing was what you've seen before with the most attention grabbing moment played at the start.You'll learn a lot a long the way and be as frustrated as the docs with the paperwork as you stay with a doc as he does he's write ups and log in. The doctors are real as can be so you'll either like them by their personality or that they are real noble people. By the end it's a tool to learn more than entertain and isn't the brutal look in emergencies rooms you might expect.