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 that is unknown with no known treatment or vaccine created fear, riots, and overall and unending societal uneasiness.
Providing some sense of how we got to where we are as a nation—divided and mentally challenged—the documentary A Shot in the Arm by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Scott Hamilton Kennedy 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. Kennedy 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 new 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 inciting former President Donald Trump and a blatant disregard and 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, Kennedy 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 and that errors do happen as long as they are acknowledged as errors and not used as weapons of ill will.
“…a growing anti-vaccination movement that went mainstream and prominent with COVID-19, where anti-science became a new normal…”
A Shot in the Arm provides historical context for vaccinations that have saved our modern society and 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 antA Shot in the Armi-vax movement and its offspring as a bizarre rise to fame for attention-seeking ego maniacs who refuse to acknowledge their lies and wrongs. 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-Nazi types.
An interesting point in A Shot in the Arm that hits home is Kennedy’s excellent reporting and interviewing on how the country of Samoa handled a measles crisis that ultimately prepared them for COVID and a nation taking a shot in the arm for health where 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 for a change. And adding Nobel Peace Prize nominee Dr. Peter Hotez for developing a low-cost COVID-19 vaccine is a most impressive element of A Shot in the Arm, as his daughter has autism.
Building a poignant stance for vaccinations, Kennedy’s research and carefully placed news footage, essential interviews, acquired images, archival imagery, and film, and the perspective of everyday people like Karen Ernest 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 what makes A Shot in the Arm important is how it is 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 premieres at the 2023 Palm Springs International Film Festival.