One of the best documentaries of this year is Andy Abraham Wilson’s Under Our Skin. No questions asked, no if ands or buts. This film is a flat-out powerhouse. Gorgeously filmed, incredibly well-researched and highly pointed, the 100-minute piece chronicles the life of four Lyme disease victims and focuses the lens on their pain and suffering. Dana Walsh, is an event organizer for the rock band U2, who by all appearances looks completely healthy and normal. Inside though her neurological impulses are fizzling and her body is incessantly tired. Mandy and Sean Hughes are young, attractive newlyweds who do their best to maintain a normal, everyday existence despite the fact that Mandy’s battle with Lyme is crippling and life-threatening. Jordan Fisher Smith is a former Park Ranger in the forests of California, who took his battle with Lyme and put it to pen. His book “Nature Noir,” is the compass that guides much of Under Our Skin. The documentary also introduces Elise Brady Moe, a mother who has undergone several miscarriages and Dr. Alan Macdonald, a staff pathologist who works from home at a makeshift laboratory in Smithtown, Long Island to research Lyme disease.
So why exactly a documentary on Lyme disease? The better question is why hasn’t there been a documentary like this already? Since the disease’s inception in the Connecticut town of Lyme in 1975, the medical establishment has looked at Lyme with a curious and awkward glance. Aside from the late 1980s, when the CDC labeled the outbreaks in the Northeast as an “epidemic,” there has never been enough attention focused on the disease. Despite the fact that at present, more than 200,000 cases are chronicled each year, only a quarter of which are properly diagnosed, makes the Lyme problem more prevalent than HIV/AIDS in America. Then there’s the political/social/economical aspect, which stems from various doctors and insurance companies failure to acknowledge the gravitas of the disease and its crippling affects. More often that not Lyme sufferers are misdiagnosed, scoffed at and the subject of a litany of tests. As the film documents, each of the four sufferers spent at least $100,000 in medical bills and visited at least 15-20 doctors, before being helped by a Lyme doctor. Moreover, Under Our Skin also details the court hearings and disbarrments of two controversial Lyme Disease doctors. Charlotte, North Carolina’s Dr. Joe Jemsek, Waterbury, CT’s Dr. Charles Ray Jones.
Already hailed by XM Radio as “the most important documentary to come out this year,” Fox News is also saying, “Not since Michael Moore has a documentary caused such a stir across America.” Under Our Skin opened in New York City at the IFC Center on June 19 and in Los Angeles at the Music Hall on June 26. The film was an official selection at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival and winner of numerous “Best Documentary” awards. That “Under Our Skin” is so powerful is no real surprise. Filmmaker Abrahams Wilson studied journalism and anthropology at Northwestern and received a MA from USC in visual anthropology and film. He’s an Emmy-nominated producer and director, and has had films shown on HBO and the Sundance Channel.