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The Independent Critic

Trishunda A. Mooney; Marlo E. Richardson, Mario A. Hendricks, Dr. Holloway
Jamarcus Newton
Rated G
77 Mins.
Amazon Prime/Planet Imagination

 "The Jamarcus Newton Sickle Cell Documentary 
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The Jamarcus Newton Sickle Cell Documentary (Heartbeats & Sickle Cell) is an unusual film in many ways, a low-budget indie effort currently available via Amazon Prime that feels like it could have gone wrong in so many ways but instead plays out as an informative, occasionally entertaining and frequently involving feature doc about a disease that the wider population knows very little about. 

Having attended a college that actually operated a sickle cell center, I found myself familiar with much of the information shared within this uniquely titled yet genuine 77-minute doc that isn't your usual fly-by-night doc that gives its subjects a few minutes before rapidly moving on to the next interview or analysis. Instead, Newton's camera is patient and lingers on the film's subjects including those who live with sickle cell, those who treat it, and those who are trying to do something about it. The film also has a core spirituality that is different among documentaries, wrapping up with a prayer and weaving spirituality and faith into the film throughout its running time. 

There's never any question that The Jamarcus Newton Sickle Cell Documentary is a low-budget effort, the sound mix occasionally a bit uneven and the film's lensing often depending upon the never dependable natural lighting. However, while these concerns could sink the film, they add a naturalness to it that enhances the film's down to earth approach. 

Sickle Cell Disease is, according to the Mayo Clinic, described as "an inherited form of anemia — a condition in which there aren't enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen throughout your body." The disease doesn't have a cure, though treatments can help to relieve pain and lessen symptoms. Sickle Cell is typically diagnosed in infancy and both parents must carry the gene for it to occur - Sickle Cell most commonly occurs among blacks. If only one parent hands down the sickle cell gene, then the child is said to have Sickle Cell traits. Sickle Cell is most commonly, but not exclusively, marked by anemia, periods of pain, painful swelling of hands and feet, frequent infections, delayed growth, and vision problems. 

While it takes a few moments to move into the rhythm of Jamarcus Newton's feature doc, it's worth the effort to learn more about this common and commonly misunderstood disease. For more information on the film, visit the film's Facebook page linked to in the credits. 

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic