Negative stories about Memphis — emanating from within the city or from national media outlets — are common and often warranted. But, starting last week, local audiences got a chance to see something good about their city in the form of $5 Cover, Craig Brewer's made-for-MTV series about the artists and places within the city's vibrant, Midtown-oriented music scene.
This week, a similar opportunity presents itself at Malco's Studio on the Square with two free screenings of Getwell, a locally produced documentary about the Church Health Center, a nonprofit medical provider for uninsured Memphians that is the largest faith-based health center of its kind in the country.
Shot over the past three years by local filmmakers Patrick Sheehan and Gannon Weaver through their Eyeline Films production company, Getwell tells the story of Church Health Center founder Dr. Scott Morris, an Atlanta native and Yale Divinity School grad who set the center in motion with a 1985 letter to local reverend Frank McRae pitching the idea of opening a health center in Memphis for the working poor.
But the film's focus starts with the cuts to the state's TennCare program in 2005, opening with a gut-wrenching town-hall meeting where affected patients tell their stories to local elected officials. The TennCare cuts swelled the center's patient load to difficult-to-manage levels, only to have a second wave hit with dislocated New Orleans citizens heading upriver post-Katrina. These crises spur Morris and the Church Health Center to make the difficult transition from a mere service provider to an advocacy group for the people it is their mission to help.
Among the many compelling topics addressed by Getwell is the center's decision to tackle prevention issues (nutrition, exercise, nicotine addiction) with its wellness/fitness program, including a focus on the growing epidemic of childhood obesity. Morris notes that the childhood obesity problem will likely lead to the first American generation with a lower life expectancy than its parents. He is shown counseling a young girl on the path to being a 300-pound 14-year-old.
Though a Christian organization, Morris is insistent on the lack of proselytizing or religious restrictions at the center, seeing the Church Health Center's work in service itself.
Getwell is packed with interviews with health-care providers, philanthropists, government officials, and religious leaders. But, along with Morris himself, the most compelling figures on display are the center's patients, including a lifelong blind woman with a recent cornea transplant losing her insurance and risking going blind again and a once-obese woman who transformed her entire family's lifestyle with the center's help.
Getwell debuted last fall but will get a second showcase this week with two free screenings, at 7 and 8:30 p.m., Thursday, May 7th. To see clips from the film, go to eyelinefilms.org. For more info on the Church Health Center, go to churchhealthcenter.org.
Studio on the Square
Thursday, May 7th
7 and 8:30 p.m.