Cinema Libre // 2008 // 126 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Erich Asperschlager // June 5th, 2008
"Half of the modern drugs could well be thrown out the window, except that the birds might eat them." -- M. HI Fischer, MD
"In time, the War on Cancer will be regarded as one of the biggest tragedies in medical history." -- Mike Anderson
"This is an educational presentation. If you have any medical condition, you should seek two or more professional opinions before making any treatment decisions."
Thankfully, no one in my immediate family has had to fight cancer, but I know people who have. In this age of scientific and technological advancements, mere mention of the word is enough to strike fear in even the healthiest of adults. The mortality rates are staggering, it can hit anyone at any time, and there is no cure. Or is there?
Mike Anderson's Healing Cancer from the Inside Out is a remarkable documentary with a simple and frightening message: Standard treatments for cancer not only don't work, they do more harm than good, and there's too much money at stake for the pharmaceutical companies and medical establishment to change things. Very little progress has been made in cancer treatment over the past 100 years, and if, as Healing contends, cancer patients who aren't treated live just as long (if not longer) than those who do, maybe it's time to look at other options.
It's up to you to decide how much of Healing Cancer you want to believe. Much of it goes against commonly accepted ideas about scientific progress and medical breakthroughs. When most people get sick, they go to the doctor or the pharmacy. But what if there was a better way to heal? What if eating healthy foods was actually more effective than taking a pill?
I'm no health nut, but the alternative medicine arguments in this documentary make a lot of sense. Maybe I'm more open to Anderson's point of view because I've been going to the chiropractor regularly for the past few years. Before I started getting adjusted -- to regain the curve in my spine, and free up pinched nerves -- I had tons of back and neck pain, and headaches. Now, I don't. I saw a doctor for my pain years ago, and the best he could do for me was to tell me my condition is hereditary and that I should just take ibuprofen. It's only my experience, so I'm not going to proclaim one approach to be "right" or "wrong." I just know which one worked for me.
In Healing, Mike Anderson -- a "medical researcher, author, and filmmaker" whose father died of cancer -- lays out lengthy arguments for both the ineffectiveness of current cancer treatment and the ability of the human body to fight disease if given the proper nutritional fuel to do so. He argues that treatments like chemotherapy do more harm than good, and that surgery only treat the symptoms, not the cause. A healthy immune system is able to destroy cancer cells that exist, all the time, in every human body. Cancer is only able to multiply and grow when the body's defense system isn't working at peak efficiency. Anderson believes that boosting the immune system through "diet therapy" can actually fight, and reverse, cancer if caught early enough. And he's not alone.
Though Healing Cancer's primary goal is to promote the idea that disease can be prevented and cured with healthy eating, it gives equal time to exposing the medical establishment's seamy underbelly. Anderson accuses organizations like the American Medical Association and American Cancer Society of deceiving the public about risk rates and the effectiveness of standard treatments, as well as trying to destroy the credibility (and worse) of those who promote alternative medicine, in order to protect their financial interests. Do those sound like outrageous claims? Maybe. But to paraphrase Chris Rock: there's no money in a cure.
Even if you dismiss Anderson's point of view, it's hard to argue that he hasn't done his homework. The movie is overfilled with interviews, quotes, and testimonials from doctors, Nobel Prize winners, nutritionists, and cancer survivors. Anderson's desire to break what he sees as the medical industry's headlock on information is at times overwhelming. While I appreciate his wanting to support his argument with evidence, one of Healing's biggest problems is that it pounds the audience into submission with facts and figures. Anderson could have gotten the same points across with less repetition and fewer quotes (if I want to read, I'll open a book). With a little more time in the editing room, Healing Cancer could have been a more streamlined and effective film, at a more reasonable running time than its current 126 minutes.
Healing is at its worst when it lampoons the medical establishment with heavy-handed audiovisual cues, and chapter titles like "Trick$ of the Trade." In the face of rising gas prices and record oil company profits, people are ready to be suspicious about corporate greed -- even in the medical industry. Anderson may feel he's fighting an uphill battle against public perception, but recent high-profile lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Merck means he shouldn't have to work so hard to demonize the opposition -- or rely on stock photos of surgeons holding bloody chainsaws to make his point.
Healing Cancer is a compelling DVD because it clearly defines an alternative to the media's usual message. Even if you disagree with Anderson, or are turned off by the way he presents the opposing viewpoint as being part of a "cancer industry" that has a "tumor fetish" and "worships animal protein," getting a different perspective on a problem like cancer is worthwhile. Just because he succumbs to hyperbole doesn't mean the other side doesn't do the same thing.
It's a good thing the message in Healing Cancer is so strong, because the presentation is not. Though Anderson does a fairly good job of organizing his material, the amateur filmmaker relies too heavily on stock imagery and static talking head shots. The new age synthesized music is about on par with the video. It works, but certainly doesn't do the film any favors. It's important to come to a movie like this with the right expectations. As much as he may want to be, Anderson is no Michael Moore.
There are growing numbers of people out there supporting new views of medicine and diet. "Health foods" are available in most grocery stores, and junky snacks are starting to kick trans fats to the curb. Even infant immunizations (which some studies link to autism) are getting a second look, thanks to active groups of concerned parents. Healing Cancer takes on something far more controversial, at the very least because cancer is a terrifying disease that has touched so many lives. Whatever you think about the film, these ideas deserve to be considered and discussed, because when it comes to medicine, it's always good to get a second opinion.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinema Libre
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 126 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site