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America ReFramed: American Heart

Posted by WMHT Web Editor on

Watch Tuesday January 20, 2015 at 8pm on WORLD.

Seven years in the making, this award-winning documentary takes viewers on an intimate journey into the lives of three refugees who now call America home. American Heart, the feature documentary debut from Chris Newberry, centers on a remarkable health clinic tucked away in St. Paul, Minnesota, which serves as a crossroads for these chronically ill refugees and their devoted doctors. 

In the opening scenes we hear a beeping monitor and see the jagged lines across a heart monitor, and a smiley-face get-well balloon. The patient is Alex Gliptis, an Ethiopian refugee suffering from PTSD, diabetes and HIV, who has a burning desire to go back to Africa. Alex tells us that sometimes it’s kind of a dream that he is really in the United States. He tells us about his depression, sleeping disorder and about his medications. Yet, he still has bad dreams about the past and that in some ways he can’t really believe that he got out. 

Throughout the course of the film, we also meet Thor Lem, a former political prisoner from Cambodia who survived the killing fields, but is dying from liver cancer. Patrick Junior, a member of an oppressed ethnic minority in Burma is the writer of over 200 songs, many of them religious and uplifting. He loves to sleep with his guitar. The health care challenges they face are daunting, made more complicated by the trauma they carry from the past. Despite failing health and life-threatening health emergencies our protagonists lead remarkable lives; their outlook and trajectories surprising even to their doctors.

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