‘Fauci’ documentary tells a tale of two health crises

By drawing parallels between the AIDS and COVID crises, the doc becomes more than a biography

Brad Keefe
In a scene from "Fauci," Dr. Anthony Fauci is seated in his office at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

While the widely panned big-screen adaptation of “Dear Evan Hansen” did not screen early for critics, I decided to make this week’s review a movie that everyone can agree upon, no matter their political affiliation. I’m speaking, of course, of the new documentary “Fauci.”

(Note: “Fauci” was originally slated to open in Columbus today, but its release date is now TBD. The doc will stream on Disney+ in early October.)

While fewer people have actually, you know, seen the documentary, it currently has a user rating of 2.2/10 on IMDb. That seems odd, huh?

Who would have thought that during a global pandemic a movie about the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases would be divisive among political lines? I guess only anyone who is living in America right now.

Released by National Geographic, Magnolia Pictures and, according to most of the negative reviews on IMDb, the Deep State, “Fauci” loosely covers the biography of Dr. Anthony Fauci, with most of the emphasis on two health crises that defined his career so far.

Fauci agreed to appear in limited interviews as long as it did not interfere with his work. How self-serving you think this documentary is will probably depend upon your political leanings.

What could have been a puff piece valorizing the man who was turned into a hero and then a villain over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic actually turns out to be something more enlightening.

Fauci’s story during the COVID crisis is well-known and recent, but the documentary elevates the narrative by illuminating his role in battling another health crisis: AIDS.

Fauci has advised seven presidents, yet in an opening montage, Tucker Carlson laments that Fauci was “never elected,” because apparently it would be best to let the American people decide who “medical experts” should be. (My head hurts.)

But we see his lifelong focus on infectious disease, as well as the calm and direct manner that only sometimes reveals his Brooklyn roots. Most striking are the interviews with longtime AIDS activists and the documentation of the protest movement ACT UP, which used direct action to pressure government agencies to ramp up research and allow dying people access to experimental drugs.

Fauci himself recounts this period with eyes glossed with tears. He shares how connecting with AIDS patients and activists guided his work, even as he was a villain to many at the time.

 “Fauci” raises itself from being a mere biography by smartly juxtaposing Fauci’s role in the national AIDS and COVID responses in parallel rather than chronologically.

It’s still a relatively straightforward doc, but one well worth watching if you happen to be, say, vaccinated.

“Fauci”

Coming to Disney+ in early October

3 stars out of 5