Tribeca Film Festival: 3 Documentaries Explore Comedy, Big Pharma & Politics in Zimbabwe

Congressman Ted Lieu and Chris Bell in "Prescription Thugs"
Congressman Ted Lieu and Chris Bell in “Prescription Thugs”

Three documentaries I saw at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival explore the subjects of prescription drugs and big pharma, politics in Zimbabwe, and what motivates comedians to go into the field. Take a look:

“Prescription Thugs” is a scathing, startling, and dramatic documentary by Chris Bell about the impact of prescription drugs on our lives. Chris discloses that he has been and remained (at the time of filming) addicted to prescriptions, and his fellow wrestler brother died of an overdose. In other words, this subject is very serious and close to home for Chris, who puts himself into the film much like Michael Moore does in his own films.

Wrestlers confess on screen to the number of pills they have taken daily, and we hear from a former pharmaceutical sales rep, who says she was a “legal drug pusher.” She also says that most of the studies in top medical journals are controlled by big pharma, which, she claims, uses us like lab monkeys.

Chris and writer Josh Alexander put together statistics and evidence that show how the FDA does not protect us from big pharmaceutical corporations. In one compelling scene, Chris shows a Congressman how easy it is to buy prescription drugs on Craigslist.

If you don’t get pissed off after seeing this documentary (and I think everyone needs to see it), you’re either in the pharmaceutical industry or hopelessly apathetic.

A still from "Democrats"
A still from “Democrats”

“Democrats” is a documentary by Camilla Nielsson set in Zimbabwe that follows many of the country’s leaders as they attempt to rewrite the constitution. Having been to Zimbabwe more than a decade ago, I was particularly interested in the film, but I think it would be fascinating to anyone interested in politics. We see that even after a committee has spent years rewriting the constitution, the administration of Robert Mugabe pays it lip service.

We also watch as one of the men responsible for the writing is apparently framed and put in jail. The machinations and power struggles are a study in human complexity and character flaws, as well as the desire of the human spirit to strive toward improvement.

The film won the Festival’s juried Best Documentary Feature Award.

“Misery Loves Comedy” is already available on VOD, so unlike most of the films in the Festival, you can see it immediately. A doc by comedian/actor Kevin Pollak, it includes interviews with such luminaries as Jimmy Fallon, Tom Hanks, Amy Schumer, Judd Apatow, Larry David, Jim Gaffigan, and Lisa Kudrow.

The comedians talk about why they do what they do and how the motivation for going into comedy is often pain and insecurity. Check out the trailer below.


4 responses to “Tribeca Film Festival: 3 Documentaries Explore Comedy, Big Pharma & Politics in Zimbabwe”

  1. Chris Bell Avatar
    Chris Bell

    Great article and thank you. Just to clear up confusion, Josh Alexander was the writer and I, Chris Bell, was the director. Today marks my one year of sobriety. Thanks.

    1. Melanie Votaw Avatar
      Melanie Votaw

      Thanks, Chris, and sorry for the mistake. I’ll fix it in the article right now. Congratulations on your sobriety, and best of luck with the film.

    2. Sharon Laakko Avatar
      Sharon Laakko

      Thank you for your work to bring light to a BIG problem in our world, BIG Pharmacy THUGS. They have our FDA not doing their job protecting people. I am advocate of removing a dangerous product from the market….ESSURE which Bayer claims as safe and effective. The group I belong to is 17,000 strong and fighting with everything we have to bring awareness to this problem.
      Prayers for you continued success.

  2. Melanie Votaw Avatar
    Melanie Votaw

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