Under Our Skin
Photos and Video
It may be the most controversial illness in America today. Most people think of Lyme disease as that thing you can catch from a tick bite, but few know the true graveness of one of the most dangerous epidemics currently afflicting people across the nation. Already profoundly difficult to test accurately, thousands of people go undiagnosed or, even worse, misdiagnosed with Lyme. The Center for Disease Control estimates that more than 200,000 people acquire Lyme disease each year, a number greater than that of new cases of AIDS, West Nile Virus, and Avian Flu combined. And yet, the medical establishment-with profound influence from the insurance industry-has stated that the disease is detectable and treatable and that chronic Lyme is most likely either some other affliction or a completely psychosomatic disorder. Under Our Skin is a powerful and often terrifying examination of Lyme disease that looks at not just the science of the bacteria and the politics of the controversy but also the personal stories of those whose lives have been affected and nearly destroyed. From a few brave doctors who risk their medical licenses to patients who once led active and athletic lives but now can barely walk, Andy Abraham Wilson's documentary uncovers issues and secrets that most people probably don't even know exist. While exposing evidence of a broken healthcare system, he also gives voice to those who believe that instead of a crisis, Lyme is simply an "epidemic of hysteria," often overdiagnosed and contributing to another potential future crisis: the looming ineffectuality of antibiotics and the growing strength of viruses. Wilson's careful study and expert storytelling provide a compelling, informative, and emotional experience of one of the most mysterious and important-but least discussed-diseases currently plaguing our country.
Behind the Screens: The April 27th screening will be followed by a discussion featuring director Andy Abraham Wilson, best-selling author and former Lyme patient Amy Tan, and medical expert Dr. Richard Horowitz, and moderated by Robert Bazell, Chief Health and Science Correspondent for NBC News.
Director's Statement Collapse
When my twin sister in upstate New York was diagnosed with Lyme disease many years ago, I thought little of it. I knew she had undergone a long period of multiple symptoms and few answers from physicians. But, at the time, I had little patience for what I mistook as her laziness and malingering. How could anybody be so sick and yet look just fine?
Flash forward almost 10 years later: A friend of mine in California is struck with mysterious cognitive and neurological impairments. She is diagnosed with MS, and then ALS—which is basically a death sentence. Luckily, a second opinion brings her a diagnosis of Lyme disease, and she begins a long road back to health.
I was shocked about what I thought I knew about Lyme disease, how I hadn't taken it seriously, and how I knew few others did either. Because of its multi-system symptomology and the inadequacy of standard tests, Lyme disease often mimics or is misdiagnosed as other illnesses, including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, autism, MS, Parkinson's, and ALS. I was shocked that something with such far-reaching, life-and-death implications went so unnoticed.
As with most mysteries, I soon found that conspiracy theorists filled the void. Talk of Lyme disease as a government-engineered weapon of bio-terror proliferated on the internet: Some say the bacteria that causes Lyme (a pumped-up cousin of syphilis) escaped from a bio-hazard research facility on a tiny island off of Long Island. The story goes that it eventually found its way to Old Lyme, Connecticut, just across the Sound, where in the mid-1970s school children began getting sick with severe rheumatic conditions, later determined to be caused by the bite of a tick infected with the Lyme-causing bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi. While the smoking gun for that theory has evaded us, we have stumbled upon a chilling tale of the pursuit of profit and prestige at the expense of science and very sick patients.
Perhaps this film project, which has endured over two years and 350 hours of footage, is my penance for the way I treated my twin sister when she was sick. But I also recognize a good story and know a good deed: By CDC upper estimates alone, Lyme disease may be the fastest growing infectious disease in the country, dwarfing AIDS and West Nile Virus combined. Like my sister, today thousands of patients are told that their symptoms are “in their head” or a result of stress, depression, or “unknown etiology.” They live with chronic, debilitating illness. Left untreated, some die and others take their own lives. Most go through a ceaseless maze of doctors and diagnoses, with few answers and often no insurance coverage (because Lyme is not recognized as a chronic disease).
Our film tells the hidden story of Lyme disease, while shining light on the deep, dark fissures in our healthcare and medical research systems. It is meant to open eyes to a danger under our skin that has gone far too long ignored. Awareness literally will save lives.
Film Information Collapse
Cast & Credits Collapse
Director of Photography Andy Abrahams Wilson
Producer Andy Abrahams Wilson
Editor Eva Ilona Brzeski
Producer Andy Abrahams Wilson
Editor Eva Ilona Brzeski
Senior Producer Kris Newby
Connect to this film Collapse
About the Director(s)Collapse
Andy Abrahams Wilson (b. 1963) received an MA from USC in film and cultural anthropology and is an Emmy-nominated producer and director of creative nonfiction films. Credits include the HBO special and awardwinning Bubbeh Lee & Me and the Sundance Channel broadcast Hope is the Thing with Feathers. A recipient of a Pew Charitable Trust Fellowship in dance/media, Wilson has produced several films about dance or dancers, including the award-winning films Positive Motion, Casualty, and Returning Home. He is the founder of Open Eye Pictures and a 2003 recipient of an Individual Artist Award from the Marin Arts Council.