Veteran filmmaker Roger Weisberg, who also made the 2006 POV film Waging a Living, turns his lens on uninsured Americans in Critical Condition to give us a powerful, eye-opening look at the health care crisis in America. In an election season in which health care reform has become one of the nation’s most hotly debated issues, Critical Condition lays out the human consequences of an increasingly expensive and inaccessible system. The film profiles four people — Joe, Karen, Hector and Carlos — who experience harrowing stories of battling critical illnesses without health insurance. It is through their eyes and words that we experience through the gaping holes in the health care system, where care is often delayed or denied. Ultimately, the unforgettable subjects of Critical Condition discover that being uninsured can cost them their jobs, health, homes, savings and even their lives.

Critical Condition airs on most PBS stations on Tuesday, September 30 at 9 PM. (Schedules vary, so check your local listings.) The entire film will stream on the POV website from October 1 to November 11, 2008.

Director Roger Weisberg says that he chose a cinema verité style for filming Critical Condition because personal stories can be more convincing than statistics. In his letter to viewers, Roger says:

Instead of interviewing experts or policy makers who would tell you what to think, I wanted these disturbing stories to unfold through the experiences and words of our primary subjects. I believe that these narratives of uninsured patients in the midst of their own medical crises will engage viewers far more effectively than yet another recitation of grim facts and statistics.
No matter how staggering it is to learn that 22,000 Americans die every year simply because they lack health insurance, that number is still only an abstract statistic. However, a single uninsured individual who dies prematurely after you’ve grown attached to him is a tragedy.

Read more from Roger’s interview, in which he speaks about what he wants viewers to do after they watch his film.

Do you have a question for Roger? Enter it in the comment field below, and he will select a few questions and answer them the week of October 6, 2008.

Added October 22, 2008: Roger answered viewer questions about about what they can do to help, alternative health care and what role personality responsibility should play in the lives of uninsured Americans. Read his responses to viewer questions.

Published by

Former POVer Ruiyan Xu worked on developing and producing materials for POV's website. Before coming to POV, she worked in the Interactive and Broadband department at Channel Thirteen/WNET. Ruiyan was born in Shanghai and graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Modern Culture and Media.