After a career in various other capacities in the international film industry, Dylan Mohan Gray has arrived at Sundance 2013 with his filmmaking debut. Self-described as a “garden variety Punjabi-Irish hybrid, lover of contemporary history and politics,” Gray studied film in college, but not necessarily with the express purpose of making them. Gathering all of his disparate collaborations and experiences, “Fire in the Blood” represents the culmination of a long and personal journey.
What It’s About: “It’s the story of an unimaginable crime and the unlikely group of people who took on the world’s most powerful companies and governments in an effort to stop the carnage.”
Now What It’s REALLY About: “‘Fire in the Blood’ is, on the one hand, a chronicle of one of the greatest crimes in human history, the willful denial of AIDS drugs to Africa and other parts of the global south for several years after they were more or less universally available in the US and every other Western country. At least ten million people who could have been saved with available, low-cost medication died painful deaths, and while none of this happened by accident, no one has ever been held to account. On the other hand, it is the untold story of an extraordinary group of people from different parts of the world who came together to break this blockade, often at great risk to their own lives and liberty. It is also an exposé of the fundamentally flawed and corrupt system by which medicine is developed and commercialized, and a warning call that as things now stand life-saving drugs are almost certain to continue becoming less and less accessible with the passage of time, in rich countries as well as poor, and that the lives of literally hundreds of millions of people hang in the balance. At its root, however, this film is fundamentally about how we treat each other as human beings and the stunning extent to which our supposedly representative governments blithely do the bidding of profit-crazed giant corporations even in the face of near-apocalyptic loss of life. People are really responding to the film, getting very worked up about it and inspired by its remarkable characters, so hopefully the platform we’ll be getting at Sundance will help make all this increasingly difficult to sweep under the rug…”
Biggest Challenge?: “I felt a massive weight of responsibility in telling this story, partly because it is so monumental in scale, partly because all the people who died deserve more than a slapdash account of what happened, and above all because the story had never been told, certainly not in any comprehensive way, and as far as I knew I was making the definitive account of it. That said, the ‘biggest challenge’ was certainly finding a way to tell the story, picking up and leaving off a variety of strands along the way, maintaining a balance between personal, historical and political narratives in a manner which wouldn’t feel disruptive or stifling to those watching the film. That was exceptionally difficult and delicate, and very much the reason it took me years to complete the film.”
What I Shot On: “Sony F900 CineAlta, with a small amount of Sony EX1 and EX3 footage, and oodles of archive sources ranging from miniDV which sat mildewing at the bottom of a cardboard box for ten years on up…”
What I Want Audiences To Remember: “Different people will take away different things, but I know some will quickly become obsessed with this subject, as I did… many will be fascinated, many will be angry, many will be inspired and motivated, some will be proud, others will be ashamed. Some, inevitably, will also be skeptical and disbelieving, despite the fact the film makes an extremely strong case. The only reaction which might truly disappoint me would be one of indifference, but I suspect that’s also the most unlikely…
“I suppose if I had to choose a specific overall response, I would like the audiences at Sundance to come away thoroughly convinced, as I am, that this is an incredibly important story which at some point affects every single person on the planet, that it is utterly shocking and scandalous that the issue of access to medicine is not part of a much larger societal discussion, that the incredible people in this film are living proof that it is truly possible to change the world no matter how powerful, well-healed and unscrupulous one’s adversaries might be, and that ultimately we have no excuse not to do precisely that.”
Films Used for Inspiration: “Many, but Alex Gibney’s films ‘Enron’ and ‘Taxi to the Dark Side’ made a unique impression on me with their rational, non-polemical and supremely civilized treatment of topics which could so easily have veered into the realm of sanctimonious handwringing.”
In the Works: “I definitely owe my family a long trip somewhere. First, however, we have the UK and India releases of the film coming up, and hopefully the US before too long as well… I have done some development on a couple of projects, one of which I’ll be pushing ahead with as soon as my time frees up a little. It’s almost certainly going to be in the narrative space, since that’s a world I’m far more familiar with, and documentary filmmaking in India is still very tough going. I absolutely want to make more docs in future, and if an interesting commission were to come along I’d even be happy to do that next up, but in the meantime there’s one script we have put a significant amount of work into. I’m thoroughly excited about its possibilities as a film, so I expect that will be the next ‘big one’…”
Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2013 festival.
Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch of the festival on January 17 for the latest profiles.