SLAMDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! There are many models of which to examine the concept of disability. The medical model espouses that doctors and other medical professionals know best how to address someone’s disability. The social model advocates that people are disabled by their social environments. The stark contrast between each model and the implications of leaning too hard into the medical model can be easily identified by watching How Much Am I Worth?, written and directed by Rachel Handler and Catriona Rubenis-Stevens.
Four women — Denise Castelli, Andrea Dalzell, Jaleesa Graham, and Rachel Handler — all with disabilities involving their limbs, discuss their inability to afford proper treatment and/or prostheses. As one remarks, the high anesthesia bill makes her wonder if she should have just sucked it up and felt pain instead of not being able to pay the rent next month. She is charged this bill after losing her job due to the pandemic. Did you know prostheses can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000 and are usually only covered partially by healthcare with strict limits on how many prostheses can be had per lifetime? Stay tuned through the credits for more staggering statistics that showcase the lack of humanity of insurance and healthcare agencies.
“Four women…with disabilities involving their limbs, discuss their inability to afford proper treatment…”
Doctors may know how to make lives better on a superficial level, but they are not stuck with paying for their services. How Much Am I Worth? reminds me of Michael Moore’s Sicko, and I would have liked more time spent with the subjects here.
The non-linear format of having all four subjects’ stories told simultaneously is a useful narrative device, insofar that one can feel the injustice of these women’s plights. However, a deeper dive into each story would have been appreciated, and hopefully, a full-length documentary with linear segments for Denise Castelli, Andrea Dalzell, Jaleesa Graham, and Rachel Handler would allow for that. It was just hard for me to keep up as I was not sure whose issue it was that we were currently discussing or what their disability was.
All in all, it is important to ask what dollar values we place on people’s lives, especially now within the pandemic, when it is said by some government entities that some lives are worth less than others by virtue of being disabled. This is a combination of the medical and social model – especially when society buys into the medical model and preaches the know-how of doctors over general human kindness and recognition of self-worth. For that reason alone, How Much Am I Worth? is a compelling watch, flaws and all.
How Much Am I Worth? screened at the 2021 Slamdance Film Festival.
"…one can feel the injustice of these women's plights."