Tuesday, September 1, 2009

THE WAITING ROOM -- CROWDED WITH STORIES


Andrew Morris in Pete Nicks' in-progress documentary THE WAITING ROOM.

Stories are everywhere, really, but some places are especially crowded with 'em. Police stations, delivery rooms, graduation parties, cemeteries (see Heddy Honigmann's gorgeous 2006 documentary "Forever"), and so on. Anywhere that people confront beginnings, endings, or unusually potent emotions. 

Bay Area filmmaker Peter Nicks has hit upon a rich nexus -- the hospital waiting room. Nicks is collecting stories of people in Oakland's Highland Hospital for a feature-length documentary called "The Waiting Room," as well as for dissemination online. In addition to filming of a few select people himself, Nicks also plans to set up "storytelling booths" at the Highland and other hospital waiting rooms, so people can film their own stories. The idea is not just to present a documentary film to passive viewers, but to enliven and enrich the conversation about health care. The topic is timely and important, of course, but part of what intrigues me is what a perfect spot the hospital waiting room is for gathering stories. People have stories about why they're there, and the time to tell those stories while they wait! 

Visit whatruwaitingfor.com, where new stories are posted daily (including one I like, embedded above) Also, a terrific article on the project by San Francisco film writer Michael Fox is here. This process of collecting healthcare stories, interestingly, is echoed by the White House, whose "reality check" website on healthcare reform invites visitors to post videos about their own experience with healthcare. However moving any one person's experience may be, it's the accumulation of their stories into a larger narrative that I suspect will lend both endeavors whatever power they may have.

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