PALM SPRINGS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2023 REVIEW! When the pandemic lockdown occurred in 2020, unbeknownst to all of us, we were on the cusp of a change in society, a division of thinking that no one could have predicted. COVID-19 issued a bumpy and unusual wave in the examination of healthcare like no other in our lifetime. Wearing masks, aggressive social distancing, and facing a dangerous infectious disease with no known treatment or vaccine created fear, riots, and unending societal uneasiness. Oscar-nominated filmmaker Scott Hamilton Kennedy’s documentary, A Shot in the Arm, provides some sense of how we got to where we are as a nation — divided and mentally challenged.
The filmmaker offers well-researched evidence and background about dismissing science and accepting politics and media attention as truth. Kennedy saw the pandemic as a time for introspection, to decipher why informed and educated people disbelieved science and its progress. He exposes a variety of influences that disrupted lives and offered an altered sense of existence, which was considered extreme or alternative before 2020. His investigation of a global measles epidemic provided insight into a growing anti-vaccination movement that went mainstream and prominent with COVID-19, where anti-science became a normal position.
As a result, of this type of extreme thinking, Kennedy was able to make informed ties to the January 6 United States Capitol attack incited by former President Donald Trump with a blatant disregard and absolute disrespect for democracy. From a teacher in Compton, Los Angeles, to Robert Kennedy Jr. interviews, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Paul Offit, and nurse Blima Marcus among others, the filmmaker constructs a case for how a movement has changed a country’s vision of health and how we handle being sick. He also creates a prominent picture of change, acknowledging errors do happen but should not be used as weapons of ill intent.
“…insight into a growing anti-vaccination movement…where anti-science became a normal position.”
A Shot in the Arm provides historical context for the vaccinations that have saved our modern society. Life-saving measures that have been unraveled by media attention seekers from anti-vaxxer figure Del Bigtree and the distortions and falsities of Dr. Wakefield, who believe the measles vaccination, MMR, has caused an epidemic of autism due to mercury. Yet, science proves it has provided 30 years more life to so many. Kennedy boils down the anti-vax movement and its offspring as a bizarre rise to fame for attention-seeking ego maniacs who refuse to acknowledge their lies. Unfortunately, for once leading and respected environmentalist Robert Kennedy Jr., disrobing his opinions is disparaging and alarming, especially to see him in Germany taking photos with neo-Nazis.
An interesting point that hits home is the excellent reporting and interviewing on how the country of Samoa handled a measles crisis. This ultimately prepared them for COVID, every citizen took a shot in the arm for health, and very few became sick. On the flip side, Kennedy follows nurse Blima Marcus and how COVID was handled in her New York community — not an easy road. Nobel Peace Prize nominee Dr. Peter Hotez developing a low-cost COVID-19 vaccine is a most impressive element here, as his daughter has autism.
Through research and carefully placed news footage, essential interviews, acquired images, and archival footage Kennedy builds a poignant stance for vaccinations. The filmmaker wisely throws in the perspective of everyday people like Karen Ernest to make valid and important points. Ernest cares about people and society. She offers a selfless attitude and believes in a social contract. Yet, the underlying meaning of A Shot in the Arm important is that it’s a mirror revealing how selfish we as a society have become. It is a call to humanity to take a step back before we are all eliminated or too sick to care for anyone, let alone ourselves.
A Shot in the Arm screened at the 2023 Palm Springs International Film Festival.
"…a call to humanity to take a step back before we are all eliminated or too sick to care for anyone..."