Under Our Skin



KIM’S NOTES:  I plan on attending the November 8th, 2PM show.  Please come and bring ten of your friends!  We need to fill every seat! //Kim


UOSA movie review for Under Our Skin.

Under Our Skin

By Megan Lehar • September 25, 2009

Under Our Skin

Directed by:  Andy Abrahams Wilson
Cast: Dana, Mandy, Jordan
Running Time: 1 hr 45 min
Rating: Unrated
Release Date: September 26, 2009

PLOT: An exploration of Lyme Disease from the point of view of people afflicted with the disease as well as doctors who’ve dedicated their career to helping Lyme patients in unorthodox manners.

WHO’S IT FOR? Anyone except hypochondriacs.  I’m not joking, any undiagnosed aches and pains will suddenly become Lyme disease.

EXPECTATIONS: I was hoping for a well balanced documentary that made an interesting case for why Lyme disease is an “epidemic.”


Mandy as herself:  Mandy’s a newlywed, with advanced Lyme disease.  She’s only 29 at the start of the film but she has trouble with movement, including walking.  Lyme disease has changed her whole life, and it’s taken over her husband’s life as well.  Though she’s a small part of a larger film, her willingness to share the indignities of her disease is beautifully brave.
Score:  9

Jordan:  A former park ranger turned author, Jordan actually got diagnosed with Lyme disease at an early stage.  Nevertheless, he’s been afflicted for years.  Jordan has chronic Lyme disease, a diagnosis that’s controversial.  He has to travel across the country to find a doctor willing to treat him.  Literally, he flies from Nevada to New York for treatment.  But he’s finding a way to make his life work.  I admit, the stories of these people afflicted with a disease that doctors won’t even agree of the existence of is really heartrending.  Though we only see Jordan for a small part of the film, you admire his courage for being part of this film.
Score:  8

Dana as herself:  Dana has an awesome job, she works as a promoter on the U2 tour.  Unfortunately, she’s also in constant pain.  She seems really in control,  until you realize how badly she’s allowed her disease to get out of control.  Dana talks to the camera in such an honest and direct manner you can’t help but admire her.  Have you ever tried to grade the performance of a person with a disease opening themselves up on camera?  Yeah, try that sometime. She gets a …
Score:  9

TALKING: Despite occasional medical jargon, the filmmakers do a great job of making a difficult topic understandable.  This film deals with some difficult issues, mainly why the medical community at large refuses to accept Lyme Disease as a chronic illness despite the evidence of hundreds of people afflicted with the disease.  The fact that they can make this relatable and understandable is very impressive.
Score:  8

SIGHTS: Under Our Skin must have had a decent budget because it looks great.  The scenes filmed on location look good and there’s some nice illustrative animation.  I’m really surprised, looking as good as it does, that they didn’t get a wider release.
Score:  8

SOUNDS: The music is decent, the sound is good … and that’s all I have to say about that.
Score:  7


BEST SCENE: I really enjoyed finally hearing about why the medical establishment refused to accept Lyme Disease as  a chronic condition.  It felt like a great gotcha moment in a thriller rather than a revelation in a documentary.

ENDING: I didn’t think it was possible but it did end on a hopeful note.  But the moment it was done I wanted to know where everyone was right now.  To say they won me over completely was an understatement.

QUESTIONS: How can you believe these people are imagining their symptoms?  Why is the medical establishment willing to let people suffer?  Isn’t there a way around this bureaucracy?

REWATCHABILITY: Remember what I said at the beginning about not watching this if you’re a hypochondriac?  I take it back, I would totally show this to a hypochondriac, it would be hilarious.


At the end of last year I reviewed Indestructible, a film about a man suffering from ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.  Though that film was about a single man struggling with a disease, the two films have a lot of overlap.  Under Our Skin looks at Lyme Disease from the perspective of patients, individual doctors and the medical establishment.  It’s the rare film that speaks with high ranking people from the opposing side (doctors who claim that Lyme Disease is easily treatable and not chronic) and come out fighting.  I can’t say I was totally impassive, it didn’t take me long before I was completely sympathetic for the patients.  But despite their stories, the film still believes in making it’s case.  Wilson has done a wonderful job, and I can only hope his next film gets a wider release.



Photo: Paul Chinn / The Chronicle

Photo: Paul Chinn / The Chronicle

Justin Berton, Chronicle Staff Writer, jberton@sfchronicle.com September 14, 2009

The first question filmmaker Andy Abrahams Wilson hears about his latest documentary: Lyme disease? Really?

Wilson’s “Under Our Skin,” which screens Friday at San Francisco’s Sundance Kabuki Cinema, has managed to transform the unlikely topic of a bacterial infection into a critical hit on the festival circuit.

The film is also credited with reigniting a discussion about the merits of Lyme, an ailment that’s been largely misunderstood – or flat out denied – by the medical establishment. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 35,000 new cases of Lyme disease last year, a 71 percent increase over the past two years, which means new Lyme cases are almost as prevalent as new HIV cases (39,000). Because Lyme tests are inaccurate and cases go unreported, one CDC estimate put the true number of current cases at 300,000.

“If this were HIV or West Nile virus,” Wilson said, “we’d be doing everything we could.”



Lyme_Bar-Chart_2008Lyme disease continued its steep rise in 2008, as the CDC posted a final tally of 35,198 reported cases, a 28% increase over the previous year. Looking at a two-year timeframe, cases increased by 77% from 2006 to 2008. According to CDC epidemiologists, these reported cases are underestimated 6- to 12-fold, due to inherent flaws in its passive reporting system. So, the actual number of new Lyme cases in 2008 may total upwards of 420,000. And many Lyme-literate physicians believe that the real numbers may be even higher.

In 2008 the CDC changed its Lyme reporting process to include both “confirmed” and “probable” cases in the total, and during this transition year, it’s difficult to tell how this affected the accuracy of the case count. Fifteen states failed to report any “probable” cases.

For the states with the most reported Lyme cases in 2008, go to:


Leslie Wermers July 7, 1967 -November 2, 2008

I will never forget your warm and loving nature. EVER.  Lyme Disease may have stolen your body, but not your soul.

For more about Leslie and her sister, Tracie…go to www.lymefighters.org