RKS Film: “Make People Better”: Toronto Hot Docs Film Festival

“Make People Better” is documentary about genetic engineering of human embryos. Your initial reaction may be strongly against “playing God”. After the documentary you might be thinking if controlled and regulated there is a valid use for it.

He Jiankui (JK) is a young Chinese biologist that had gone further than others by genetically engineering twins Lulu and Nana in 2018 China. The documentary follows the less than enthusiastic response from the scientific community and close to outrage amongst the general public.

JK disappears after a November 27, 2018 human genome editing conference in Hong Kong. American reporters find him imprisoned in a university dormitory and are prevented from meeting him by Chinese secret police. Three months later he is sentenced to three years in prison.

Was JK a martyr? Did the Chinese government initially support his research in an effort to create obedient zombies? Has research in this area ceased? Why is this a situation where you should “follow the money”? What does the scientific community think of this human experimentation?

The risks are enormous. While it may come to a point that human genome editing is perfected we are speaking of scientific technique but what is not known are the long- term effects of genome editing. If you change genetics what is the interaction with the genes you have not edited? JK is clear that he is not in favour of genetic enhancements but instead focusing on creating individuals whose genes have been altered to avoid contracting genetic diseases. In other words he was not in the game to create designer babies. Imagine for example if genetics could be used to defeat cancer? Would you change your mind about genetic engineering?

The documentary is food for thought. No one but the “authorities” know the fate of Lulu and Nana. Have the twins been killed or sterilized? I believe that JK was misguided and led on by governmental authorities until such time as public outrage over JK’s experimental babies blew up giving him a rogue scientist label. China, seeking to protect is reputation, threw JK under the bus.

In many respects the documentary is a thriller and never becomes overly scientific. As this type of experimentation continues if you want to be better informed about it this documentary is a must watch.

Playing in theatre April 30 and May 3 and 7. For five days starting May 1st the film can be streamed.

The film is directed by Cody Sheehy.

RKS Film Rating 92/100.

Published by Robert K Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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