Under the Eight Ball
Documentary Review by Joseph Robinson
November 18, 2009
Every so often a documentary film comes along that is so surprising and inspiring that it
has the nagging affect of entering into the deepest hallows of a post-modern cynical mind
and acknowledging all that is there. But what ends up so shocking is how in this treatise to
expose the evil doing of mankind at its worst is a love so profound as to move your soul
despite the horrors of ?the truth.?
Timothy Grey and his girlfriend/film partner Breanne Russell direct this documentary tour de force in as a personal of a journey as one can image. This is true documentary story of the bonds of love within a family during the tragic discovery and untimely illness and demise of Mr. Grey?s Sister ? Lori Hall Steele. The tragic illness and unfortunate end is told and filmed as unflinching and honest as one can bear. As witnessed by Grey/Russell?s most
telling camera, you travel through an earnest and personal review of her life, the struggle to determine the illness that has its grips on her, and then ultimate journey to the end of her life ? and beyond.
Grey/Russell and Lori Hall Steele?s family are then left in the grief stricken state of asking
From this tragic inspiration is born the question of why? Why did this illness occur? What
caused the health concerns from the beginning? What was the troubled medical industry
responsible for? What role did the environment play? What role did the fact that Lori Hall
Steele ran out of insurance play in this tragedy? And finally, what role did pre-communist
China, Nazi Germany, the Cold War, and the United States Government have in all this?
That?s right, from this simple question of a grief stricken ?why?? Grey/Russell launch into
a line of questions many don?t wish to have asked.
In a highly stylized flourish of personal creativity, this documentary art piece dares to take a personal, private, family matter and dig ever so gently and then more aggressively into all that is truth in the manufacture and testing of bioweapons in America.
As told in linear fashion this true-to-life script could easily play out like a courtroom drama in a compressed 2 hour and 4 minute burst of emotional, edge-of-your-seat drama. This line of events is exposed over a period of nearly ten months as the exploration of Lori Hall Steele?s illness and what could be causing her to head so fast into unrecoverable sickness. We find out very quickly what ails her is Lyme disease and that this is the reason she is made to struggle so.
From failure to diagnose, to withdrawals of treatment, to refusals to issue known
medications that could have prolonged or even saved her life, the tragic first act is rife with
head shacking witnessing of just how bad the healthcare system is and what levels of denial we are all willing to accept in the name of capitalism and personal freedom to chose an insurance-based healthcare system.
Then, She dies.
In what has to be the most courageous act of film making I?ve ever watched, Grey/Russell
turns the camera on their own and the family?s grief and we are witness to it all.
Unflinchingly, we move from hospital to hospice, to final hours as treated by Grey/Russell
with a ghostly telling of the time we live with those we love as they live out their end of
We then are witness to a cinematic requiem in honor of Lori, with a love poem in image to
his dear Sister in what is a fantastic musical and ethereal call of a Spirit Home as told
through film. In a homage, unsurpassed in recent memory, this scene alone is worth taking
the journey, no matter how painful the steps.
As act three unfolds, the tone shifts as Grey/Russell try to get to the bottom of the question of ?why.? The directors stand on the shoulders of the great documentarians: Michael Moore with Fahrenheit 9/11 and Morgan Spurlock with Super Size Me, in telling a
personal story with an honest and courageous eye while including credible witnesses from
a huge cast of supporters. Experts include doctors, professors, medical scientist,
government historians, and the like. In the role of character, along side the family and
girlfriend Breanne, Tim Grey, filmmaker as partner to the story, uses this modern
documentary style to add accessibility and connection to the material.
If the audience gets any closer to Timothy Grey as filmmaker and the emotional witness in this tragedy, he?d have to adopt us all into his family and hope we brought enough food to pass at his poor sister?s memorial reception.
This is all very heavy stuff. It is technical in nature, and at times hard to swallow. But it is
worth it. What works with the film is the way the detail is explained in a nicely stylized
fashion without patronizing nor ?dumbing-down? the material for a ?lesser audience.?
Under the Eight Ball is an intelligent film with a critically important message that could
affect us all. If you watch this documentary you won?t think of a wood tick, our
government, or your family in the same way again.
The climax note to us all involves the town of Lyme, CT. Grey/Russell interview the
Mother of four long-ago suffering children of the yet unnamed Lyme disease. As she
explains her children?s journey, we are brought full circle to the tragic impact of how fear
can kill on and on into the future. The fear we weak humans possess that allowed us to
make this nasty germ and unwittingly (or not) unleash it on our own. We learn that her
family suffered when the disease was first ?discovered.? The facts become ever clear as she
tells her story. We realize it is horribly and hauntingly familiar to the one we just watched.
And we are all then left with the question: Why is this allowed to happen over and over