Previously, we learned about a recent visit local filmmaker Chris Newberry paid to students at Minnesota School of Business-Richfield (MSB). Chris screened his documentary, “American Heart,” and discussed the creative process with students in the Internet Marketing Chair Richard Grossman’s Film and Society class. Let’s continue to find out what Chris had to say:
Chris said that gave the film the title “American Heart” because of something we hear a doctor say early on in the film. The doctor (who is American by birth), while living in Thailand would tell her Thai friends that she has the face of a foreigner but the heart of a Thai person. With “American Heart,” Chris flipped that idea on its head. “Refugees are forced out of their home countries and are here reluctantly, yet they embrace and embody the American dream,” he said.
Chris said that the message of the film is to “bring some humanity to people going through their care in medicine.” He said, “A lot of intense care – chemo, being in the ICU, for example – is very dehumanizing.” He is glad that many screenings of this film have been to audiences made up of healthcare professionals. “They get to learn the patients’ histories and personal stories,” he added.
One student asked Chris how he dealt with his emotions throughout the filming. Chris responded with, “I tried to be an observer,” but he wasn’t completely successful. He gave the example of filming an exam with Alex and his wife, Nora. Some piece of relevant medical information had been miscommunicated and Chris felt it was necessary to step in as an advocate for Alex and clarify the information. “People like Alex and Nora fall through the cracks. Think of all the information that we as American-born people don’t receive or misunderstand or miscommunicate,” he said.
Finally, Chris explained to the students that the experience of watching his documentary “unfold before me” will inform his scripted work. He stated, “On a documentary, the story happens in the editing room.”
Nursing student Ivo Kum enjoyed the event. “It was really good! It ties in with what we are learning in my nursing program dealing with patients in the larger system. It impacts me more — it is more eye-opening because it is reality,” she said.
And management accounting student Amber Furst had this to say: “I thought the film and discussion were great. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I really enjoyed it. Hearing Chris speak about the process — seven years of film! I can’t imagine editing seven years of film into a 90 minute feature!”
How lucky our students were to learn about healthcare, filmmaking and the human condition all in one evening. We thank filmmaker Chris Newberry for sharing his art and his time with us.