The Untold Story
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In Fire in the Blood, India's only contender at the Sundance Film Festival this year, Mumbai-based Dylan Mohan Gray tracks the "crime of the century"
Back in 2004, on one of his days off while shooting Deepa Mehta's Water in Sri Lanka, Dylan Mohan Gray chanced upon a story that would become his first film as a director. It was a newspaper article about Dr. Yusuf K Hamied, the head of generic drug company CIPLA, and his lone war against a government-pharma giants nexus. "My first impression was that Hamied was trying to do something good, yet he was being attacked for it. There was something interesting going on beneath the surface," he says.
The report led him to a story of a far greater magnitude than he had imagined. The loss of 10 million lives in global south (Africa, Asia and parts of Latin America), led by the blockage of low-cost AIDS drugs by western governments and pharma giants, is the story of Gray's Fire in the Blood. The documentary is one of the top contenders for the Best World Documentary Competition and the only Indian film at the Sundance Film Festival, 2013.
Fire in the Blood maps the story of trade restrictions that limit access to lifesaving medication in Africa and the global south, resulting in many deaths since 1996. Simultaneously, it shows the rise of an unlikely group of people-doctors, scientists, economists and NGOs — up against the Western government-pharma giants conglomerate. Pioneering the movement was Mumbai-based Hamied. Along with a few NGOs, he revolutionised access to cheap drugs in these areas. The film also features global figures such as former US president Bill Clinton and South African social activist Desmond Tutu in its various segments.
The crew, mostly Indians, also includes Mumbai-based rock artiste and Blue Frog co-founder Ashutosh Phatak as the music director. Bollywood regular Kunal Sharma is the sound designer. What drove the Mumbai-based filmmaker to make the film was the lack of any account, written or filmed, of what he calls, the "crime of the century". "I consider myself fairly well-read, but I knew almost nothing about this story, and the historian in me found it hard to accept that something of this magnitude had gone unnoticed," says Dylan, who set up his Mumbai-based film production house, Sparkwater India, in 2005.