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“That’s the beauty of organic methodology where you don’t know anything, you’re just discovering things every day, you’re discovering things as you go along,” Diaz said. “It’s a very fluid thing.” Acclaimed Filipino filmmaker Lav Diaz followed a screening of his documentary “Storm Children, Book One” with a Q&A at the Albert and Dana Broccoli Theatre Monday night. The two-and-a-half-hour long film follows the daily lives of a group of children in Tacloban City months after Typhoon Yolanda, the largest and deadliest typhoon in the Philippines’ history. “We have focused primarily on East Asia, which is China, Japan, Korea,” Ryu said. “But we do hope to expand to Southeast Asia and South Asia so this was a wonderful opportunity to bring a Southeast Asian filmmaker here to campus.” Lav Diaz’s latest film titled “Storm Children, Book One” documents the experiences of children from Tacloban City in the Philippines following the historic and destructive Typhoon Yolanda. (Mia Islas | Daily Trojan) The documentary subverts many expectations American audiences hold when walking into a theater. There is little dialogue and no underscoring; the film structure is simply a procession of tableaux, where the camera is at a fixed angle and rarely moves. One of the most touching moments is when two boys unearth a small ball from a pile of wreckage which audiences watch them dig through for a half hour. “There’s this endlessly fascinating sequence in the film where the boys are unearthing things that clearly had been buried after the ravages of the storm,” Ago said. “And, quite frankly, it was almost hypnotic, just sort of following what they were doing there, especially when they actually start extracting things.” The screening, which was moderated by Alex Ago, director of programing and special projects at the School of Cinematic Arts, was a collaboration between SCA, the American Cinematheque and the East Asian Studies Center. Grace Ryu, the associate director of the East Asian Studies Center, was familiar with Diaz’s work through streaming his other films and thought the screening was the perfect opportunity to expand the center’s programming. Diaz told the crowd about how he met the children at the focal point of the project and how he gained their permission to film them. “They just forgot about the storm, just forgot about the devastation,” Diaz said. “I was struck by their innocence and their beauty, so I started focusing on them.” “We start very observational, but then as things progress, we start to actually see a little bit more of the filmmaker, because they’re speaking to [Diaz] directly,” Ago said. “The first time that I went there, I noticed the kids,” Diaz said. “It’s really chaotic and at the same time it’s real, when that storm happened … So many people came, even Anderson Cooper was there, so it’s the whole world that’s coming. I was behind the scenes shooting them, and then I noticed the kids.” The majority of the footage showed children sifting through rubble in hopes of finding something of value or children playing in the flooded streets. This caught Diaz’s attention, as the children had returned to their normal activities while the adults were still immobilized by shock and grief. Diaz is a stylistic filmmaker, known for his frequent use of black and white and his pioneering role in the slow cinema movement, with many of his films having a run time of around nine hours. While the runtime of this documentary is only a fraction of his typical work, he utilizes the same long, drawn-out shots he is famous for. Diaz did not arrive in the Philippines with the intention of focusing his project on children, but the protagonists of his story became evident when he saw young people frequently ignored by post-disaster mainstream media coverage. Filmmaker Lav Diaz was struck by innocence and resilient nature of Tacloban City children in the Philippines. (Mia Islas | Daily Trojan) It is the juxtaposition of the horrific tragedy the community is struggling to heal from and the way the children maintain their playful attitudes that makes this an acclaimed documentary. In one shot, a group of young girls sings Frozen’s “Let It Go” as the camera focuses on a broken road filled with remnants of destroyed homes. The disaster zone is turned into a waterpark as children use broken roofs to raft down flooded streets and turn abandoned ships into diving boards. Despite the lack of narrative elements viewers expect, the documentary’s emotional resonance comes through the ceaseless daily activities that suck the audience in. Diaz said he had no expectation or narrative in mind when he arrived in Tacloban but rather allowed the real lives of the people recovering to tell the story. “I just stayed there. I lived there for a month, and then they became my friends, they didn’t mind it at all. I said, ‘I’m going to shoot you guys and follow your lives.’”
First Edition: February 18, 2014 This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations.Kaiser Health News: Tips For New Obamacare Coverage: Stay In Network, Avoid Out-Of-Pocket CostsKaiser Health News staff writer Jay Hancock, working in collaboration with USA Today, reports: “Congratulations. You bought insurance through one of the online Affordable Care Act exchanges, possibly after days or weeks of trying to get the site to work. Don’t relax. Joining the plan is only the first challenge. Now you have to understand it. Policies sold through the online portals — to more than 3 million people so far — cover essential benefits and put a cap on your out-of-pocket medical costs. But you need to follow the rules” (Hancock, 2/17). Read the story.Kaiser Health News: Some Plans Refuse To Cover Medical Costs Related To Suicide Despite Federal RulesKaiser Health News’ consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: “Dealing with the aftermath of a suicide or attempted suicide is stressful enough. But some health plans make a harrowing experience worse by refusing to cover medical costs for injuries that are related to suicide—even though experts say that in many cases such exclusions aren’t permitted under federal law. Yet patients or their loved ones often don’t realize that” (Andrews, 2/18). Read the column.Kaiser Health News: Capsules: California Bill Would Extend Health Coverage To All ResidentsNow on Kaiser Health News’ blog, Anna Gorman writes: “In a push to cover immigrants excluded from the nation’s health reform law, a California state senator has proposed legislation that would offer health insurance for all Californians, including those living here illegally. The bill would extend state-funded Medi-Cal to low-income immigrants who, because they are in the country without permission, are now eligible only for emergency and pregnancy coverage. It would also create a marketplace similar to Covered California to offer insurance policies to higher income immigrants who lack legal status” (Gorman, 2/18). Check out what else is on the blog.Kaiser Health News also tracked weekend health policy headlines, including reports about Democrat’s health law strategies and Repubicans’ attacks (2/17).Politico: Dems’ New 2014 Plan: Neutralize Obamacare Democrats know their biggest problem in this year’s midterm election is Obamacare. So top party operatives have settled on a strategy to try blunting the GOP’s advantage: Tell voters Republicans would make the problem worse — raising prescription drug prices, empowering insurance companies and even endangering domestic violence victims. The battle plan, details of which were in a memo obtained by POLITICO, recognizes the unpopularity of the Affordable Care Act. But it also banks on voter fatigue with the GOP’s relentless demands for repeal and counts on poll-backed data that show many Americans would rather fix Obamacare’s problems than scrap it altogether (Hohmann, 2/16).The New York Times: On Health Act, Democrats Run To Mend What G.O.P. Aims To EndAs Democrats approach the 2014 midterm elections, they are grappling with an awkward reality: Their president’s health care law — passed almost entirely by Democrats — remains a political liability in many states, threatening their ability to hold on to seats in the Senate and the House. As a result, party leaders have decided on an aggressive new strategy to address the widespread unease with the health care law, urging Democratic candidates to talk openly about the law’s problems while also offering their own prescriptions to fix them (Parker, 2/16).The New York Times: In The Debate Over Health Care, ‘Real People’ Become Human VolleyballsThe “real people” political prop is a durable ingredient in politics, first popularized at the State of the Union address when Ronald Reagan invited Lenny Skutnik, who had dived into the icy Potomac River to rescue victims of a plane crash, to serve as an example of Everyman heroism. It is a trope that every president since has used. But with the continuing fight over the Affordable Care Act, it has become a blood sport for both parties. Every real face is fact-checked, every perceived distortion attacked. And real people have been caught in the crossfire (Weisman, 2/15).Politico: Barack Obama: You Can Call It ‘Obamacare’It may not be polling well, but President Barack Obama isn’t too worried about the Affordable Care Act’s nickname, Obamacare, or the health care law’s impact on his legacy. “I like it. I don’t mind,” the president told former NBA star Charles Barkley in an interview that aired Sunday about the term Obamacare (Delreal, 2/17). Los Angeles Times: California Health Exchange Faulted For Not Reaching Out More To Latinos Some California politicians are turning up the heat on the state’s health insurance exchange to boost Latino enrollment in Obamacare before a March deadline. U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Santa Ana) held a sign-up event Thursday in Orange County and prodded the Covered California exchange to do more to reach the area’s large population of uninsured. Statewide, about 1.2 million, or 46%, of the 2.6 million Californians eligible for federal premium subsidies under the healthcare law are Latino. But Covered California said only 20% of enrollees through December described themselves as Latino on their application (Karlamangla and Terhune, 2/14).The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Some Healthcare.gov Signups Face Weekend DelaySupporters of the health law have made a Valentine’s Day-themed push to get people signed up on HealthCare.gov for coverage taking effect at the start of next month. But the drive could hit a hard stop on Saturday afternoon, when the website won’t be able to process applications for three days (Radnofsky, 2/15). The Washington Post: Va. Senate Panel Proposes Alternative To Medicaid ExpansionSenate budget leaders said Sunday that they were rejecting Medicaid expansion as they approved a state spending plan that would nevertheless tap $2 billion a year in federal Medicaid funding to extend health insurance to low-income and disabled Virginians. Instead of expanding Medicaid as it has traditionally operated, the Senate Finance Committee proposed helping up to 400,000 Virginians buy private insurance through a program that would be known as “Marketplace Virginia” (Vozzella, 2/16).NPR: More U.S. Companies Switch To High Deductible Health PlansOver-all health care cost increases have slowed dramatically, but consumers may not notice it. Many face higher deductibles, co-pays and out-of-pocket maximums as employers’ insurance plans try to encourage them to pay more attention to health care costs. One big problem is health care price information is often not available (Ydstie, 2/18).The Associated Press/Washington Post: Older Americans Are Early Winners Under Health LawFor many older Americans who lost jobs during the recession, the quest for health care has been one obstacle after another. They’re unwanted by employers, rejected by insurers, struggling to cover rising medical costs and praying to reach Medicare age before a health crisis. These luckless people, most in their 50s and 60s, have emerged this month as early winners under the nation’s new health insurance system. Along with their peers who are self-employed or whose jobs do not offer insurance, they have been signing up for coverage in large numbers, submitting new-patient forms at doctor’s offices and filling prescriptions at pharmacies 92/17).NPR: Finessing Health Coverage: When To Buy Insurance For A New BabyWe’re heading into the home stretch to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act this year. The open enrollment period ends March 31 for most people. But there are exceptions. And they are the subject of many of our questions this month. For example, Diane Jennings of Hickory, N.C., has a question about her young adult daughter, who’s currently covered on her father’s health insurance. “When she ages out of the program this year at 26, in October,” Jennings asks, “she’ll have to get her own insurance through the exchange. But as she [will have] missed the deadline of March 2014, will she have to pay a penalty?” (Rovner, 2/17).The Washington Post: Congressional Republicans Are Focused On Calming Their Divided RanksAfter a tumultuous week of party infighting and leadership stumbles, congressional Republicans are focused on calming their divided ranks in the months ahead, mostly by touting proposals that have wide backing within the GOP and shelving any big-ticket legislation for the rest of the year. Comprehensive immigration reform, tax reform, tweaks to the federal health-care law — bipartisan deals on each are probably dead in the water for the rest of this Congress (Costa, 2/17). The Associated Press/Washington Post: Issa Rails Against Obama’s ‘Imperial Presidency’As chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Issa is probing some of the Obama administration’s most provocative controversies: the troubled rollout of the health care website, the Internal Revenue Service’s scrutiny of politically active groups, the National Security Agency’s mass collection of Americans’ phone records and the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that killed three Americans (2/18).The Associated Press/Los Angeles Times: Starr Leads Purchase Of Healthcare Services Firm MultiPlanA group led by Starr Investment Holdings said Monday that it is buying MultiPlan Inc., which helps manage claims for large health insurers. The price was $4.4 billion, according to a person close to the deal, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the companies did not disclose terms (2/17).The New York Times’ DealBook: C.V. Starr And Partner Buy Health Care Concern In A $4.4 Billion DealMultiPlan was purchased by the private equity firms BC Partners and Silver Lake Partners in 2010 for about $3 billion, with the private equity firms each investing about $600 million. Founded in 1980, MultiPlan manages the claims process for insurers, corporate self-funded health plans and health maintenance organizations. The company processes about 40 million insurance claims annually (Bray and De La Merced, 2/17).Los Angeles Times: Generic Drug Makers Fight Rule On Health Risk Warnings Companies that make generic drugs, the medications most Americans buy, are fighting to kill a proposed federal regulation that would require them for the first time to warn patients of all the known health risks of each drug they sell. The proposed rule change by the Food and Drug Administration “would be nothing short of catastrophic,” said Ralph G. Neas, president of the Generic Pharmaceutical Assn., an industry trade group. It could raise healthcare costs and “create dangerous confusion” for doctors and patients, he said (Savage, 2/16).The Associated Press/Washington Post: Style, Stances Of Ohio’s GOP Governor EvolvingKasich stirred up opponents of tax increases by pushing hikes on oil and gas drillers whose companies are fueling an economic boom in eastern Ohio’s shale country. He has riled Republicans opposed to President Barack Obama’s federal health care overhaul by first advocating a Medicaid expansion allowed under the law, then forcing the program change through a legislative panel against GOP lawmakers’ wishes (2/16).Politico: Push Continues For 20-Week Abortion BansNew attempts to ban abortion after 20 weeks are gaining traction in the South, where Republican-led Legislatures have repeatedly adopted restrictions in recent years. Such bans, which supporters often call “fetal pain” laws, are already advancing in South Carolina and Mississippi. And a bill to prohibit abortion at a pregnancy’s midpoint is about to be introduced in Florida. It’s a repeat effort from a 2011 package of regulations in Tallahassee, and proponents say the measure has an improved chance of passage (Cunningham, 2/14).The New York Times: Writers Guild Plans Forum On Affordable Care ActOn Tuesday night, an expected crowd of 100 or so screenwriters and others will gather in Lower Manhattan at the headquarters of the Writers Guild of America East to hear thoughts about the Affordable Care Act and its place in comedy and drama. But whether any movie and television scripts that happen to be affected will have audiences laughing or crying about Obamacare still is not clear (Cieply, 2/16).Check out all of Kaiser Health News’ e-mail options including First Edition and Breaking News alerts on our Subscriptions page.