Someone said they thought I’d like this little film I’d never heard of. They were so right. This is like digging in your garden and finding a diamond, folks. Based on a true story, the HBO movie starts in the 1930s and ends in the ’60s, following the life of Vivien Thomas (Mos Def), a black man who helped pioneer the first cardiac surgery.
Like the film, Vivien Thomas is an undiscovered diamond – a brilliant guy with a high school education who wants to go to med school but is thwarted by the depression. He hooks up with Alfred Blalock (Alan Rickman) and over the course of a decade or more they develop the techniques that allow them to treat pulmonary stenosis.
But the film’s subtext is racism. Not the ugly, violent sort, but the matter-of-fact racism that makes Vivien Thomas invisible. In the film, he’s the true innovator who makes the surgical miracle possible, but receives no recognition until long after he’d helped pioneer the field of cardiac surgery.
This film won a bunch of awards. Am I the only one who’d never heard of it? See it.