Documentary “Pay or Die” ignites the passion to fight back against medical greed. [SXSW]

I always find it a little weird when I start off anything I write with a personal note, but there was something about this documentary that hit me hard. It might have something to do with the fact that I am a diabetic or that a good chunk of my family is/was diabetic and how it has affected or continues to affect their lives. But I have never been happier to be a Canadian, for a variety of reasons, but free and affordable healthcare is a huge reason. Documentary Pay or Die, at one point, exposes that a monthly dose of insulin is $1,300 USD. Let me state that again. THIRTEEN HUNDRED DOLLARS in American dollars. At today’s current exchange rate, that is $1,789 Canadian! For perspective, that is what I pay for rent in Toronto.

Before I allow myself to dive into the incredible documentary, I just want to state how maddening and angry this makes me. It is so wild and disconcerting to me that my entire RENT in a one bedroom in one of the most expensive cities in Canada and in the top five most expensive cities in the United States and Canada is the same price as insulin for someone who lives in the United States who doesn’t have proper health insurance. I’m not going to sit here and type away about politics because it is not the time nor place nor is it who I am, but health care and housing should not be a luxury. Period. End of statement.

PAY OR DIE - FilmStill

A still from co-directors Rachael Dyer and Scott Ruderman’s documentary PAY OR DIE. Photo credit: PAY OR DIE.

Pay or Die states that approximately 10% of Americans with diabetes are type one and require insulin. Due to how expensive insulin is, some people must ration their insulin dosages.

Let that sink in.

People have to ration the medicine they need to live. This isn’t saying people aren’t able to go and have entertainment or that their food budget is cut, this is what they need to live. Without the medicine, they will die. That is what Pay or Die focuses on. It focuses on the lives it affects with parents who have had to watch their children die because they couldn’t afford their medication tell first-time feature-length filmmakers Rachel Dyer and Scott Alexander Ruderman that according to Big Pharma, their child’s life was worth $1,300 and wasn’t worth saving.

Pay or Die goes from testimonials and stories that some of the subjects have gone through to get their life-saving medication to following advocates who do anything they can to help their communities, fight congress, and ensure that people who need insulin can get it, even if it is possibly expired. These people are willing to take expired medication that may cause harm because it is simply better than taking nothing. Pay or Die exposes, on a larger scale, what is wrong with the medical system in the United States. Rachel Dyer and Scott Alexander Ruderman are determined to expose the chaos that is happening in the United States with Big Pharma, using doctors from the Mayo Clinic to explain the soaring costs of insulin, the impact of co-pay vs not having insurance, and what caused the hike  a literally life-saving medication. Pay or Die refuses to be an “easy” watch. It makes your blood boil, it makes you see red, it exposes the corporate greed, and that Big Pharma would rather bathe in blood than make something that is necessary affordable for those who need it the most. Pay or Die feels like the most tense hostage thriller blockbuster you’ve ever seen, but when faced with the reality that this is what several million people have to face on a daily basis, it is one of the most surreal horror movies one will ever see. Pay or Die floors its red-hot topic and fills the audience with anger and fear, igniting the fire that exists in us all.

Screened during SXSW 2023.

For more information, head to the official SXSW Pay or Die webpage or the official Pay or Die website.

Final Score: 4 out of 5.



Categories: In Theaters, Reviews

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