While caped, biologically enhanced avengers dominate multiplexes, the documentary “Bending the Arc” — about the intrepid men and women behind the global healthcare nongovernmental organization Partners in Health — chronicles what real-world heroes look and sound like, and what they do to bring life-saving protocols to the neediest countries.
Equal parts biography, grim-yet-hopeful news bulletin and system-battling thriller, it chronicles how a trio of idealistic, determined medical students — Paul Farmer, Ophelia Dahl and Jim Yong Kim — turned inexperienced yet keen observation on the ground in remote, illness-ravaged Haiti into a community-centered method for conquering diseases.
It also required attacking one of the most devastating killers in the battle for sustainable healthcare: bureaucratic and bigoted cynicism. It’s hard to believe that in the 1990s they had to persuade world medical leaders with blinkered views on cost and effort not to write off poor Peruvian tuberculosis patients because they’d become drug-resistant. But their revolutionary notion to emphasize the training of locals as healthcare workers has over a few decades met with extraordinary, life-affirming success in many countries battling TB, AIDS and Ebola.
Is filmmakers Kief Davidson and Pedro Kos’ “Bending the Arc” a glorified infomercial for a worthy cause? In certain ways, yes — and an occasionally intrusive score doesn’t help — but the archival footage, the impassioned interviews, and the inspiring story of how warriors for solutions can overcome entrenched views on poverty and health, make for something genuinely stirring.
‘Bending the Arc’
English and French with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica