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#HotDocs22 Review: The Quiet Epidemic

May 3, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The 2022 Hot Docs Film Festival runs from April 28th to May 8th in Toronto, more information on tickets and showtimes can be found right here.

Despite around half a million people being infected with Lyme disease every year in the United States alone, the tick-borne illness has been hotly contested within the medical community since it was first discovered in Connecticut in 1975. With doctors disagreeing on symptoms, diagnostic criteria, and how to treat it, many with chronic forms of the disease are left to suffer in silence.

In their debut documentary The Quiet Epidemic, directors Lindsay Keys and Winslow Crane-Murdoch offer an exhaustive and compellingly researched deep dive into the controversies around Lyme disease, from flawed tests and a discontinued vaccine, to insurance companies that have heavily influenced policy around treatments. They put a human face on the disease through the story of Julia Bruzzese, a once-active teen girl in Brooklyn, New York who became sick with a mysterious illness that has left her using a wheelchair. Desperate for answers, her father did his own research and pursued a diagnosis of chronic Lyme disease, against the advice of dismissive doctors.

The film also introduces us to Dr. Neil Spector, a cancer researcher who had his heart damaged from Lyme disease and required a transplant, spurring him on to pursue better tests and treatments for the disease. While The Quiet Epidemic presents us with a lot of information, it’s delivered in a compelling and easy to follow way, including graphics illustrating how the corkscrew-shaped spirochetes of the disease drill their way into cells and evade antibiotics, and can cross the blood-brain barrier.

Cutting between personal stories, professional interviews, and archival footage, the filmmakers keep us engaged throughout the 106 minute running time. At its heart, The Quiet Epidemic is a moving story of a father who would do anything to help his daughter, with the filmmakers striking an impressive balance between the scientific and human side of this issue. It’s all tied together with a poignant musical score by composer Alex Ebert.

Screenings:

Monday, May 2nd – 5:30 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

Friday, May 6th – 10:30 AM at Isabel Bader Theatre

The film is also available to stream across Canada for five days starting on May 3rd at 9:00 AM.

 

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