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Oakland, what are you waiting for?

The Waiting Room is a documentary that follows the life and times of patients and caregivers at Oakland’s Highland Hospital. The entire movie was filmed over a 24-hour period in an emergency room that also acts as a safety net for the city’s uninsured (you can view the trailer here). ER dramas get a lot of play on TV these days, but the film shows the reality of life in an urban hospital, where staff struggle to find spare beds for trauma patients. Highland is a “hospital of last resort” — a place where people end up when they don’t have access to basic, preventative care.

The film has gotten rave reviews (and extended runs) in cities all over the US. Just a few weeks ago, it was short-listed for an Academy Award in the Best Documentary category. The director, Peter Nicks, always talks about Oakland in interviews: how its diversity and spirit make it the perfect setting for an American film. According to an interview with the Wall Street Journal, his next project will focus on the Coliseum, the A’s, and the controversial plan to move the team to San Jose. We worked with the Waiting Room folks on a collaborative tee for the movie’s release (and even got one of Highland’s ER doctors to model it). Fifty percent of proceeds from the shirts will help the filmmakers set up storytelling kiosks in hospitals across the country, so more people have a chance to tell their stories.

The documentary profiles people of all backgrounds and walks of life: recent immigrants, young couples, construction workers — the list goes on. Almost all of the reviews mention how dignified and resilient its subjects are, even on what is probably one of the worst days of their lives. To those of us who live in Oakland, that should come as no surprise.


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