A buzzy title that scooped up the Best Documentary prize at both last year’s Los Angeles and Hamptons International film fests, “Code Black” hit New York’s IFC Center on June 20 and opens at Los Angeles's Landmark Theatre on June 27. Watch the trailer for this intense doctor's eye view of our medical system in crisis below.
The film, directed by recovered lymphoma patient and resident Ryan McGarry, follows a team of young ER doctors during the hectic transition from the 1930 sprawling LA County General + USC Medical Center hospital to the fancy new upgrade. Aside from the acute stresses of the emergency room--where teams learn to function under duress to save lives--or not--once these doctors move to modern facilities, they are also swamped with paperwork, rules and regulations, all on a piece of land where, as one of the film's subjects says, "more people have died than any other location in the United States... [yet] more people have been saved than in any other square footage in the United States."
County General was the first hospital to set up an Emergency Room. The core of the ER is C-Booth, a 20 x 25 trauma bay with three beds where the most traumatic critical patients are rushed --in shock from a gun wound, poisoned, unable to breathe, or under cardiac arrest. We see amazing footage of a doctor placing a chest tube within 30 seconds. "It scares the hell out of you," says one of the senior residents who run the place. "You have to work hard, and there's no excuse."
Resident Jamie Eng turned to emergency medicine because she would rather engage in hands-on interactions with patients to end their suffering than create reams of data in a research lab. "To heal someone and make them feel better," she says, "it's no matter if they're rich or poor."
For one doctor, the ER gave him a chance to "be the best you can be, no shirking your responsibility, you knew at the end of the day you had done your best."
This nail-biter is a fascinating companion piece to "The Waiting Room." Check out the “Code Black” website here.