What to watch: 5 must-see Sundance films during National Nurses Week

(above: Escaping the Fire: The Fight to Save American Health Care)

Written by Stephanie Ornelas

Filmmaking plays an important role in our lives when it comes to highlighting essential people, and nurses are undoubtedly essential. They are the heart and soul of the healthcare industry.

May 6 was the first day of National Nurses Week, which precedes International Nurses Day on May 12. And while most of us know Honorary Week, few may know that the international holiday – celebrated around the world – is also the birthday of Florence Nightingale, best known as the founder of modern nursing. Nightingale came to prominence during her management and training of nurses during the Crimean War, where she laid the foundation for professional nursing with her nursing school at St Thomas’ Hospital in London.

Sometimes, we can lose sight of how much nurses give to their jobs on a daily basis. But cinema can help with that. Here are five films that premiered at previous Sundance Film Festivals that prove that working as a nurse takes a lot of grit:

in the same breath

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the pandemic, it’s that not all heroes wear a cap. If they did, every frontline nurse in the COVID-19 ward would get one. In this documentary, which premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, the origin and spread of the novel coronavirus — from the early days of the outbreak in Wuhan, China, to its rampage across the United States — is told. Through emotional accounts and stunning shots, the film traces a map of cover-ups and disinformation while also highlighting the strength and resilience of those who tried to tell the truth. (Available to stream on HBO Max)

we were here

The award-winning 2011 Sundance Film Festival documentary focuses on five people who have suffered from the AIDS epidemic, including Elaine Glotzer, a nurse who has worked in the AIDS ward at San Francisco General Hospital since the beginning of the epidemic. we were here It highlights the profound personal and societal issues raised by the AIDS epidemic, as well as the broad political and social upheavals it has unleashed. The film documents what was ruthlessly called the “gay plague” of the early 1980s, and provides insight into what society can and should offer its citizens in medical care, social services, and community support. (Available to rent on AppleTV and Amazon)

A black and white photo of a man in a headband and white shirt reads: "AIDS poster boy"


In the film, which premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, Claires “Precious” Jones lives through the toughest situations as she suffers constant abuse at the hands of her parents. But the 16-year-old relies on people like Nurse John (Lenny Kravitz), the charming rock star on the hospital ward, and her wise and patient mentor Mrs. Ryan (Paula Patton). When Precious is offered the opportunity to transfer to an alternative school, she instinctively sees an opportunity to change her life. (Available to stream on Peacock)

Young black girl with short bangs wearing a small blue jacket and black coat walks with her hand in her pockets while two passersby look at her.

house demolition

A registered nurse in Missouri, a young waiter in the Bronx, the daughter of a miner in West Virginia, and a grieving mother in Nevada build a movement of rebel candidates to challenge powerful incumbents in Congress. In the 2018 cycle, registered nurse Cory Bush partnered with more than 50 candidates from across the country on both the Brand New Congress and Justice League Democrats list. Her 2018 campaign was featured in the documentary, which premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and won the festival’s chosen audience favourite. “As a single parent, registered nurse, ordained pastor, activist, and community organizer, not a day goes by that I don’t feel the influence of a government not working for us,” Bush wrote. 2019. (Available to stream on Netflix)

Brown-haired woman looking down on a pin she's wearing says, "I voted"

Escaping the Fire: The Fight to Save American Health Care

The 2012 Sundance Film Festival documentary highlights struggling healthcare facilities, what busy doctors and nurses do every day to care for their patients, and what can happen when they don’t have the right support and tools to manage their affairs. Workload. Award-winning filmmakers Matthew Heinemann and Susan Frumke follow thrilling human stories, as well as leaders fighting to change healthcare at the highest levels of medicine, industry, government, and even the US military. (Available on the Roku channel.)

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