FFPC11 - Outbreak

Intro by Ben Harrison

We picked today's movie because pandemics are in the news (see here). This is a history-show with a 120-sided dice that picks our movies for the main feed and we almost never have an opportunity to be topical.

At the center of the film is a team of doctor soldiers at US AMRIT, a real Army outfit the DOD maintains to fight infectious disease. Of course, in the history of warfare, disease has played an outsize role. The invasion and colonization of the Western Hemisphere was particularly lethal to the local population because of the exotic diseases the Europeans brought with them. The trenches in World War I were notorious hotbeds of disease.

Almost half a million of the soldiers who died of the Civil War died of things like pneumonia, typhoid, dysentery, and malaria. They called it The Third Army. And if you think that is nuts, in the Napoleonic wars, eight times as many Brits died from disease as died from wounds. I guess what I am trying to say is that white people are bringers of disease and death and they must be stopped.

More contemporarily this remains a problem. New zoonotic diseases are finding their way into human populations because, as the global South and China's economies expand, they are building in previously pristine wildernesses, bringing humans into contact with local wildlife. The news of the day is about the novel Coronavirus, but previously Bird Flu, SARS, Ebola, and hemorrhagic fever have claimed a lot of lives and grabbed a lot of headlines.

It would be comforting to think US AMRIID is there to stop these pandemics before they start, but this film paints a picture of its leadership being another corrupt wing of the military industrial complex and more interested in isolating highly lethal pathogens for their potential bio-warfare applications.

The movie is a little uneven and maybe preoccupied with the wrong stuff, but it is a really interesting thought experiment, especially now, about what we would tolerate politically to stop a terrible disease from spreading. As I record this, it appears that China's fairly draconian effort to contain the Coronavirus to Wuhan has failed.

With new cases popping up in Italy, Iran and several East Asian countries, in today's film, an American town is cordoned off, which is amazing to contemplate. More amazing still is the idea that the entire town could be firebombed unless Dustin Hoffman can convince cooler heads to prevail.

Here is hoping this film stays a work of fiction. If one of them have it, then 10 of them will have it, and if one of them leaves Cedar Creek, then we are in deep fucking shit! We are already in deep fucking shit! Today on Friendly Fire: Wolfgang Peterson's 1995 thriller Outbreak.

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