Imagine what a world without diabetes would be like. A huge reduction in pain, suffering, unnecessary death. And, as a bonus, probably a significant drop in pharmaceutical advertising.
The goal is far away, but not as far away as you might imagine. Married documentary makers Lisa Hepner and Guy Mossman spent more than five years making “The Human Trial,” a film that chronicles a research firm’s quest for a cure and follows two people with diabetes who set themselves up as test subjects.
The film begins with footage of Hepner taking a blood sugar reading. As someone with type 1 diabetes, she is personally involved in this topic. Her story tells of her 2014 discovery of a San Diego company, ViaCyte, which is developing a treatment that can implant insulin-producing stem cells in patients. (This is admittedly a simplistic description of what the treatment should do; the film goes into more detail, with clarity and patience.)
Over the course of several years, the filmmakers keep an eye on two diabetic patients, Mason and Gregory, who allow themselves to implant modules that release stem cells. His blood sugar level is noticed to be lower. But is this a placebo effect? The film is blunt in portraying the emotional ups and downs of the patients, showing the sometimes tired realism of the researchers. It also offers a different kind of fatigue: ViaCyte is in constant need of new funding.
“The Human Trial”, shot largely in hospital waiting areas, offices and conference rooms, is not a visually dynamic film. But it builds up some good steam in the narrative intrigue department before dissolving with a low-key note of hope.
The human ordeal
Not judged. Running time: 1 hour 31 minutes. In theaters and virtual cinemas.