The old saying "charity begins at home" is taken to heart in "Remote Area Medical," a revealing documentary covering three days in the life of a pop-up healthcare clinic in Tennessee.
Originally founded by Stan Brock in 1985 to service otherwise inaccessible regions of the Amazon rain forest, Remote Area Medical has been increasingly focusing its volunteer efforts on rural U.S. populations.
Hundreds of needy patients camp out in front of the Bristol Motor Speedway in the heart of the Appalachians, many with serious dental issues (those graphic scenes of tooth extractions are not for the faint-hearted) and other long-neglected health problems.
Rather than placing the film in a greater socio-political context by having healthcare pundits weigh in, co-directors Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman have opted to stick with those plain folks — but not necessarily to diminished effect.
Although the documentary can feel like a volunteer instructional video at times, the faces on those who have fallen through the cracks in the system speak volumes.
Brock explains how demand on the home front has meant cutting back in places like Honduras and Guatemala. As he succinctly puts it, "Welcome to America."
"Remote Area Medical."
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills; Laemmle's Town Center 5, Encino.