Joshua Altman, Ryan McGarry
"Code Black" Plays the 2013 Heartland Film Festival
Winner of Best Documentary Feature at the 2013 Los Angeles Film Festival and the Golden Starfish Award at the 2013 Hamptons International Film Festival, Ryan McGarry's Code Black sounds a lot like the type of documentary you'd find yourself watching on some late night cable television channel but, in fact, it's a more involved and compelling documentary feature about L.A. County Hospital's transformation from the chaotic yet inspired C-Booth to a far more organized and streamlined emergency care setting in a new building that in many ways lacks the heart and soul of the rather infamous C-Booth.
McGarry, a doctor himself in the setting and not an experienced filmmaker, creates an authentic creating film precisely because he avoids the usual filmmaker flourishes that may make a film more stylish but they can always take away, rather ironically, the soul of a film.
As an adult living with spina bifida, I've certainly seen my share of emergency rooms and McGarry does a terrific job of capturing both the chaos and the compassion that can so easily co-exist. Coincidentally, I also spent nearly 10 years working in an emergency room setting and resonated quite a bit with working in an under-equipped, overworked setting with people who are in the business because, for a variety of reasons, they genuinely care. While I've certainly spent a good number of my adult years jaded at the costs of healthcare and the decreased compassion, the struggles contained within Code Black are familiar and a reminder of the many things I appreciated about being a child, youth and young adult who basically grew up in a hospital setting.
Essentially, Code Black is an effective and involving documentary feature about those involved in medicine who do care and who do strive to create a balance with the new flood of policy and bureaucracy that makes it difficult manage the daily healthcare process and the genuine desire that many of them have to truly make a difference in the lives of others and to connect with their patients.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic