Sheffield, BAMcinemaFest, SF DocFest, Maryland, Sarasota
Found footage about a contested disease offers a provocative meditation on the nature of suffering.
Morgellons is a self-diagnosed condition characterized by itching, creepy-crawlies, sores, and the apparent expulsion of fibers from the skin. It’s also not generally accepted by the medical establishment, which has deemed it a delusion. In response, some of its sufferers have turned to the Internet, posting YouTube entries to attempt to offer evidence of their symptoms, share potential theories and palliative remedies, and, perhaps most importantly, to gain support from a like-minded community. Lane’s film is largely composed of segments of these types of videos, together with a few clips from media reports about Morgellons for additional context. The viewer is drawn into a type of confidence as three women’s testimonies play out a range of emotions, from joy at finally being able to identify one’s symptoms as Morgellons or satisfaction in locating some dodgy potential cure, to deep depression that they’re being treated and dismissed as hysterical women. This often disturbing but deeply empathetic film doesn’t try to assess the “realness” of Morgellons, at least not directly, but in presenting these portraits of suffering, Lane forces the viewer to question what, if any, difference there is for the afflicted between a condition with a physiological basis or one with a psychological one.