Zeitgeist Films // 2001 // 74 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Bill Treadway (Retired) // June 30th, 2004
The first nationally released film about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Let's hope it is far from the last. I Remember Me is the first film in many years to evoke both sadness and anger in me as I watched it. The sadness came from the plight of those unfortunate enough to suffer from the effects of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Anger formed when I realized that the U.S. government has untold billions to spend in a phony, fictitious war but not enough to fund meaningful research for CFS and many other diseases.
At first, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was ignored by baffled doctors and local residents, who feared that the disease was contagious. Director Kim A. Synder paints a very dim, one-sided view of these individuals. While there are undoubtedly dissenters out there, Synder fails to fully represent the majority of medical experts that treat CFS with great seriousness. Apparently, it is more effective to show the few negative elements than to celebrate the progress made.
Synder has been a CFS sufferer herself since 1995. For over five years, she painstakingly worked on this documentary. She makes a genuine attempt to find the root of CFS. She begins her journey at Lake Tahoe, the exact location where CFS first appeared. Doctors wrote the disease off, preferring to ignore a disease they couldn't rationalize. Utilizing interviews with those involved, Synder begins to build her case for the disease. To show us that the disease is nondiscriminatory, we hear from both ordinary and celebrity sufferers.
Herein lies the main weakness of I Remember Me: It is far too short for the subject it covers. Synder tries to cover far too much ground in the time frame she chose for her documentary. All of her research and interviews could have been even more effective had she gone for a longer running time. Despite prominent billing, director Blake Edwards is only featured very briefly. This is a shame because I would have liked to hear more about his ordeal, considering that he is one of the most prolific directors of all time, and sometimes it takes a celebrity to open the eyes of closed-minded individuals. Retired Olympian Michelle Akers doesn't fare much better in the running time department.
What we do have is extremely powerful and poignant, though. There is a quiet dignity in teenage CFS sufferer Stephen Paganetti. Despite his delicate condition, he manages to muster up enough energy to attend his high school graduation. One of the most effective set pieces involves Synder crashing a doctor's convention to try to get some answers.
Zeitgeist Films presents I Remember Me in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Since the film was shot on both 16mm and video, this is appropriate. Colors are washed out, and grain is ever present, but these are normal side effects of shooting on tape and small-format film. Zeitgeist does the best it can to present a pleasing picture from the material it was given to work with.
Audio is a simple Dolby Digital 2.0 mono mix. Since I Remember Me is a documentary, a fancy mix wasn't necessary. As long as the words come across clearly enough, I'm happy. Zeitgeist does a good job creating an easy-to-listen-to mix without compromising the soundtrack. There is some hiss (yet another side effect of shooting on video and very difficult to correct), but it never becomes a major distraction.
There are no extras on the disc. Other than a "Director's Update" booklet, you won't find much else to supplement the documentary. A commentary track would have been interesting, but considering the punch Synder's film packs, it isn't that big a deal.
I cannot recommend I Remember Me as a purchase. It doesn't have the rewatchability factor that other documentaries such as Lost in La Mancha, Roger and Me, and Bowling for Columbine do. $29.99 for a bare-bones disc is absolutely ridiculous, considering the narrow market for documentary discs these days. However, I do recommend renting the disc or catching the film on the Sundance Channel when you get the chance. It's such a powerful film that skipping it would be criminal.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Zeitgeist Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 74 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Rated PG