Anthony Fauci’s PBS documentary covers his career in crisis
NEW YORK (AP) — There’s a moment in the new PBS documentary about Dr. Anthony Fauci when a protester holds up a hand-made sign, “Dr. Fauci, you’re killing us.”
It says something about Fauci that it’s not clear at first when that sign shook with anger — in the 1980s when AIDS made its deadly surge or in the 2020s with opponents of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“America’s Masters: Dr. Tony Fauci,” It offers a portrait of an unlikely lightning rod: a government infectious disease scientist advised seven presidents. Fauci hopes to inspire more public servants like him.
“I thought there should be a story of people who understand what public health officials go through, but I also hope it will be a source of inspiration for young people who are interested in science or working in science,” she told The Associated. press The documentary airs on Tuesday and is streamed later.
Fauci allowed a film crew to continue for 23 months starting in January 2021. The documentary covers his career and his crises, especially how COVID-19 was handled by the Trump administration.
“When you talk about all the things that come together for a disaster, this is what happened: a divided country, a president who exacerbated the division and then a public health crisis – you couldn’t ask for a worse combination of things.” he said
Directed by Mark Mannucci It offers an intimate look at its subject, with images of Fauci wolfing down Wheat Thins between meeting and Zoom. His wife checks his stress by pointing out their security details for threats.
“The story illuminates — and he would be the first to say — some very dark things about this country and how a person who has dedicated his life to helping individuals has become twisted in this current climate,” Mannucci said.
Michael Kantor, executive producer American Masters seriessays Fauci is a figure who has been central to America for decades and deserves an examination, even if some strongly oppose it.
“Dr. Fauci is a very controversial figure, and there will be people – as in the film – who will express great displeasure with what he has done and his view of things. But isn’t that what public media is all about? The intention is to make that conversation happen in the best possible way.”
Fauci may have been introduced to millions of Americans by COVID-19, but his long career at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was marked by numerous previous health scares, including HIV, SARS, MERS, Ebola and even the nation’s 2001 anthrax attacks.
The film shows that Fauci learned a lesson in humility with AIDS, as the disease persisted and activists argued that not enough was being done by the government. “I went from a world of success and joy to a world of frustration and failure,” he says in the film.
Mannucci’s camera pans to the present day, meeting with former AIDS activists Fauci once condemned. They have been reconciled for a long time; they were all on the same side, after all, science.
“Put aside the confrontational behavior and the attacks on me and listen to what they were saying,” Fauci explained in the interview. “And what they were saying made perfect sense. It made me feel that if I were in their shoes, I would do what they did.’
That’s not the case in recent years, when protesters began attacking Fauci over mask orders, school closings, quarantines and outlandish claims about COVID-19 vaccines.
“There’s one sign that says, ‘Fauci, you’re killing us,’ and another sign that says, ‘Fauci, you’re killing us,’ but the rationale for the 1980s to 2023 is dramatically different,” Fauci said. “They couldn’t be more different.”
In a notable sequence in the documentary, Mannucci asks Fauci if he could have handled things differently in retrospect, such as asking Americans to adopt masks sooner or quarantining more quickly. “Maybe I should do that,” he says. “Yes, I was wrong.”
Mannucci relied on 10 lengthy sit-downs with Fauci to develop confidence in his subject and did not clutter the documentary with testimonials from talking heads, wanting to focus on Fauci’s experiences.
“I hope it’s not seen as a partisan message, but as a portrait of who he is and what he went through,” the director said. “I hope that people on the other side, even if they never agree with him, at least see someone who’s a real person, who’s a thinking person, someone they can maybe relate to.”
The film ends with Fauci’s retirement from NIAID late last year. According to Kantor, only time will tell where history will judge a man who dedicated his life to public service.
“I think 10 years from now, I hope the anger over him as a controversial person will have died down. But the legacy of his approach to pandemics and so on will still be very valuable,” he said.