Missouri State University alumni Randall Moore ('02, Media Production) and Brandon Kerr ('03, Electronic Arts) are on campus this weekend to screen Moore's documentary Evidence of Harm in Plaster Student Union Theater, Saturday Feb. 6 at 7:00pm, with a talk-back session to follow. The 80-minute film chronicles the lives of three people who became reluctant health advocates after suffering from the devastating effects of hazardous mercury vapors during routine dental procedures.
The film showing is part of MSU's annual Film Series. Mark Biggs, Associate Dean of Media, Journalism and Film at MSU, says "it's fun to show films that former students have made. And this is going to be a really interesting event as well, just from a public-health point of view--a real hot topic, especially for the American Dental Association, the issue of toxic metals in dental fillings. So anybody that has a filling in their mouth might find this to be of interest.
The film's creator, Randall Moore, says some 120 million Americans currently have amalgam, or so-called "silver," dental fillings that contain the potentially toxic heavy metal mercury. Moore's father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, and he says he went "looking for answers" as to what may have contributed to it. "And as I started searching the scientific literature, I found studies that linked mercury -- a neurotoxin -- to Alzheimer's Disease. I found the World Health Organization in 1991 and 2003 had examined the issue, and what they say is that the largest exposure to mercury comes from these 'amalgam' dental fillings."
Adds Mark Biggs, "What is interesting to me about this project is not only the content but the form. People go to a documentary film with certain predispositions about how 'truth' should be portrayed. Many times there's a sense that a documentary should be a piece of journalism where the author is not vested in the content, or the expression of that content." But that's simply not the way documentaries historically have been produced: most of them are all about advocacy of an issue or cause. And Evidence of Harm is no different.
Some critics have decried what they consider "fictional" intrusions into the storytelling, namely the film's use of visual effects and so-called "B-roll" footage. But producer Brandon Kerr, who operates a visual post-production company, says visual appeal was part of the point -- not to detract from the message to to enhance it. "What we talked about up front is making this visually interesting for people to want to see it. If it's not entertaining, you're not going to get anybody's attention." To that end, Kerr's post-production house produced what he considered a "visually interesting" trailer to advertise the film for a Kickstarter fundraising campaign, from which they managed to raise "quite a bit of money" to produce the documentary.
Randall Moore says he especially welcomes participation in the talk-back session following the screening Saturday night by members of the local dental health community. "I sent over 30 emails to the local Dental Society and local dentists" to alert them to the film showing, because of the risks dental professionals face in removing, and disposing of, mercury-infused "silver/amalgam" tooth fillings. "One of the main things that we found is that during the (filling) removal process, because those (mercury) exposure levels are so high, dentists (as well as dental assistants) are really on the front line" of toxic mercury-vapor exposure. "And I took a lot of time to craft the film to where it wouldn't be antagonistic towards dentists. And I feel like I've succeeded in that, because I truly feel they don't know the risks. And so I've tried to invite them out (to see the film)--I'd love them to come out and ask questions. So if anybody has a dentist that they'd like to see this, we'd love for them to come.
The screening and talk-back are free and open to the public. For more information call Mark Biggs at 836-5247 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find information at the Media, Journalism and Film page: http://mjf.missouristate.edu.