Heart Beats & Sickle Cell
Review by Barry Germansky
April 23rd, 2018
The HEART BEATS & SICKLE CELL - the Jamarcus Netwton Sickle Cell Documentary (2017) is a well-intentioned public service announcement stretched out to feature length that unfortunately fails to capture the viewer’s attention. Even though the film was made on an almost non-existent budget, that constraint does not excuse the careless attention to detail evident in every frame. It undercuts the admittedly comprehensive information presented and renders it dull.
The first thing that the viewer will notice about the film are the severe technical flaws. The filmmakers rely far too heavily on natural lighting, the editing feels incomplete (no attempt seems to have been made to level brightness and contrast levels) and the sound is wildly inconsistent. With such glaring technical issues the film’s didactic potential is comprehensively squandered. I realize that the film is a homespun indie effort but there are just too many blatant errors in the film that have nothing to do with a lack of money or filmmaking resources. For example, the film’s numerous title cards often contain glaring typographical errors that could have been easily corrected.
It’s a shame that the film suffers from such chronic sloppiness, as the intentions of the film could not be nobler. Raising awareness for sickle-cell disease is important but the filmmakers betray their cause with a spectacular degree of unprofessionalism.
Another problematic aspect of the film is its spiritual side. Simply put, the spiritual elements are not properly integrated into the overall structure of the film. The filmmakers do not attempt to implement any kind of comprehensive spiritual motif or explain the reasoning behind suddenly emphasizing spirituality near the end of the film. Specifically speaking, there is a 20+ minute-long prayer sequence that brings the film to a halt. This scene’s presence in the film is never adequately explained and instead just makes one's eyes glaze over from lack of context.
If the filmmakers could clean up the title cards, mix the sound properly, make the picture cut crisp and cut down the film to an under-30 minute runtime, you could certainly have a worthy piece of medical education here instead of a nearly unwatchable jumble.
The film is available on Amazon Prime.