"In the early days of AIDS, we at the CDC were surprised that the hemophiliac community was infected so rapidly. This shocking documentary tells why."
-- Dr. Donald Francis, Former head of AIDS Laboratory at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
"FACTOR 8 is about to take its place in history as one of the most tragic pharmaceutical drug stories since Thalidomide. Kelly Duda's dedication to the truth is an inspiration--this expose wears his heart on its sleeve, refusing to let the victims die in vain."
-- Natalie McMenemy, American Film Institute
"Knocked my socks off. FACTOR 8 makes me wish I was in the business of producing documentaries. Where's the criminal investigation?"
-- Steve McEveety, Exec. Producer of BRAVEHEART (Academy Award -- Best Picture),
"Kelly Duda is a journalist in the truest sense -- standing up for society's forgotten, despite all odds and at great personal sacrifice. FACTOR 8 is an inspiring triumph over greed and corruption."
-- Jim Gilliam, Producer of WAL-MART: The High Cost of Low Price,
"Standing against corruption is often a solitary crusade, at least in the beginning. Mr. Duda has undertaken that crusade in FACTOR 8. His is a film that polticians, officials and--above all--the citizens should see. And, having seen, should act."
-- Mark D. Murton, son of Thomas Murton, the former warden of the Arkansas prison farms,
"This is a film of huge importance for the haemophilia community in Britain and across the world. It highlights yet again the extreme urgency of the call for an independent public inquiry into the causes of the worst ever treatment disaster in the history of the National Health Service."
-- Lord Morris of Manchester, United Kingdom
"Kelly Duda's film screams to be known about. The blatant abuse of power, the criminal subjugation of prison inmates, and the complete absence of government oversight and accountability make for a compelling, must-see story."
-- William Gazecki, Producer/Director of WACO: The Rules of Engagement (Academy Award nominee)
"FACTOR 8 investigates a chilling trail of tainted blood that reached as far away as Japan. It is a relentless pursuit of the truth by a remarkable documentarian."
-- Keiko Ibi, Producer/Director of THE PERSONALS: Improvisation on Romance in the Golden Years
"Mr. Duda’s film is a chilling account of one of the most bizarre and disturbing chapters in the Canadian Tainted Blood Scandal. Hopefully watching FACTOR 8 will encourage the people of the United States to demand answers and accountability."
-- The Canadian Hemophilia Society
Kelly Duda's emotive film FACTOR 8 shocks as it highlights the immorality of the "blood for money" U.S. prison plasma trade, and haemophiliacs in the U.K. are forced to confront the reality of the poison they dared to call "treatment."
-- Carol Grayson, Spokesperson, Haemophilia Action UK
"I was shocked by the content of the film which showed in graphic detail how infected blood came to be collected and later reused for the treatment of bleeding disorders. The fact that such a situation could occur shows the need for a full public inquiry into what blood products were used in the UK…."
-- Margaret Unwin, Chief Executive of the Haemophilia Society (UK)
"FACTOR 8 tells a local story with global resonance. Thousands of Australians have suffered or died as a direct result of tainted blood. Kelly Duda has exposed the Machiavellian trade behind the humanitarian face of the blood business, and it would make Big Tobacco blush!"
-- Laurance O’Neil, Secretary, Independent Blood Council, Australia
"If young documentarians would choose subjects as important as that of Kelly Duda's FACTOR 8, we might be well on the way to making the world a better place."
-- Penelope Spheeris, Director of THE CROOKED E: The Unshredded Truth About Enron,
"At last, Kelly Duda's stunning film, FACTOR 8, gives the story of the tainted blood tragedy its due. Through interviews with inmates, prison health officials, and Canadians who contracted diseases from Arkansas blood, Duda explores the greed and politics that underscored this tragedy."
-- Mara Leveritt, Contributing Editor to the ARKANSAS TIMES,
"Duda's presence throughout the film reminds the viewer that he is just a citizen in his home state asking a few questions. But the roadblocks he hits along the way are truly disturbing. FACTOR 8 is ... an important film and an insane example of what the media chooses to illuminate or ignore."
-- Sara Jo Marks, International Documentary
"FACTOR 8: The Arkansas Prison Blood Scandal is a relevant and demoralizing work ... and stands as a chilling indictment of government indifference to the lives of foreigners and inmates.
-- Philip Martin, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
"The Arkansas prison system is notorious for its human rights abuses. Now comes Kelly Duda's FACTOR 8 and what it exposes is both heart wrenching and mind-boggling. FACTOR 8 is horrifying proof that what goes on behind prison walls does affect the outside world."
-- Jene' O'Keef, Executive Director of The Moratorium Campaign
Kelly Duda's film is a mind-numbing expose' of man's inhumanity toward man, motivated by political and financial greed. Everyone everywhere should see it and be outraged.
-- Roger Endell, Former Director of the Arkansas Department of Correction
"FACTOR 8 is a serious public service piece ... Very powerful."
-- Alexandra Pelosi, Producer/Director of JOURNEYS WITH GEORGE, Diary of a Political Tourist. (Daughter of U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi)
"FACTOR 8" is here to herd the pigs responsible for this mess out into the light. Its an ugly story, but its a story that everyone should hear.
-- Film Threat
"FACTOR 8 is hard-headed journalism practiced by a filmmaker who sometimes seems like a pit bull with a bureaucratic bone."
-- John Anderson, Variety
FACTOR 8: THE ARKANSAS PRISON BLOOD SCANDAL
A Concrete Films presentation. Produced, directed, written, edited by Kelly Duda.
With: Rolf Kaestel, John Byus, Francis "'Bud" Henderson, Jim Lovel, Hezile Earl, Bobby Glover.
By JOHN ANDERSON
This review was updated on Nov. 16, 2005.
A sturdy, concise, no-nonsense documentary that should hit screens as soon as possible, "Factor 8: The Arkansas Prison Blood Scandal" has limited theatrical options, but would probably win Peabodys if shown on "Frontline," HBO or any of the several other outlets with social agendas and nerve enough to air the appalling story related in this unconventional movie.
During Bill Clinton's gubernatorial tenure in Arkansas, the state prison system -- which was self-supporting, largely through inmate farm labor -- collected and sold inmate blood, often taken from the riskiest element of the prison population.
Focusing on the state's notorious Cummins work farm, documaker Kelly Duda establishes through interviews with current and former inmates, prison phlebotomists and others, that inmates commonly known to engage in IV drug abuse and homosexual activity were allowed to bleed for $2 a pop and --although officials deny it -- their blood was then processed and sold. Illegal to sell in the United States, the blood was distributed in Canada and used, among other things, to process Factor 8, a clotting medication sold to hemophiliacs. They, in turn, came down with HIV infections and hepatitis C. (Recent reports from the U.K. have stated that Clinton may be asked to testify in a case brought by Scottish victims of tainted blood.)
Duda gives both sides ample opportunity to tell their version of events, but is generally greeted by defiant or defensive prison officials and stonewalling politicos and, much to his (and our) amazement, discovers that Clinton's gubernatorial papers are simply unavailable for examination, in or out of Arkansas. As he proceeds with his investigation -- one of the successes of the film is that we and he seem to discover things together -- he finds all the same names popping up that were connected to either the Whitewater investigation or the Monica Lewinski case: Leonard Dunn, who led Health Management Associates, which ran the blood program for the Arkansas Dept. of Corrections; Jim McDougal, from whom Dunn later bought the Whitewater-troubled Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan, even Lewinski confidante Linda Tripp and the late White House counsel Vince Foster. What Duda strongly implies is that Clinton was impeached for the wrong crime.
In fact, one of the things that hits the viewer in "Factor 8" is that Ken Starr spent more than $40 million trying to pin something on then-President Clinton, and missed what Kelly Duda found via sheer leg work.
"Factor 8" is hard-headed journalism practiced by a filmmaker who sometimes seems like a pit bull with a bureaucratic bone. He follows subjects fearlessly and ventures into hostile environs but comes away, most of the time, with the information he wants to get.
Some of his most valuable data come from Cummins prisoner Rolf Kaestel, a prison-trained paralegal and publisher of an inmate newsletter, who is mysteriously whisked off to a Utah maximum security prison midway through the movie. One suspects, however, that we haven't heard the last of Kaestel. Or Duda. Or the Factor 8 case.
Camera (color, DV), Clinton Steeds, Duda, Bryon Knight, Jon Ruffiner; music, Nick Devlin. Reviewed at AFI Los Angeles Film Festival, Nov. 10, 2005. Running time: 92 MIN.
FACTOR 8: THE ARKANSAS PRISON BLOOD SCANDAL
February 5, 2006
Filmmaker Kelly Duda gives us the bloody facts on plasma hustling in the Arkansas prison system that has led to the spreading of deadly diseases such as Hepatitis C and HIV beyond the prison walls to unwitting victims in need of a transfusion. These facts have been swept under the rug and denied by Arkansas state officials for far too long. “Factor 8” is here to herd the pigs responsible for this mess out into the light. It’s an ugly story, but it’s a story that everyone should hear.
For over two decades, the Arkansas prison system profited by selling inmate donated blood. Prisoners would donate for a small sum of money and that blood would be sold to others in need for a much higher price. Fatal diseases often accompanied the blood supply as there was no proper screening process to assure that the donors were disease and drug free and needles were often shared amongst donors. “Factor 8” provides us with shocking eyewitness testimony from prisoners who worked in the donor lab and from those who were donors themselves. These people testify to the filthy lab conditions and blatant disregard for safety. This tainted blood eventually found its way to Canada for use in a medication for hemophiliacs called Factor 8. Users of this medication soon found themselves contracting Hepatitis C and HIV.
With “Factor 8,” Kelly Duda not only supplies us with the grisly facts of this case, but he also goes after state officials, even calling Bill Clinton out onto the carpet for some answers. He, as should we all, demands to know how this tragedy happened and why it went on for so long. This is an angering film and it’s a thorough introduction to this story that has been kept quiet for so long in the face of death threats and governmental cover-ups. And it’s a story that is continuing right now as innocent people are still struggling with ailments they were unwittingly sold and class-action lawsuits rise. Asses are in need of a major kicking and Kelly Duda has taken the first shot. Who’s next?
FACTOR 8: THE ARKANSAS PRISON BLOOD SCANDAL
Non-fiction debut needs big release
April 21, 2006
Kelly Duda made a documentary. It cost him nearly 10 years of his life, his marriage and a lot of money. During the making of the film his house was burglarized, and he says he received warnings. He says his personal notes mysteriously appeared on the Internet. He says he lost his innocence, his home state, his family and many of his friends. Then, when it was finally ready to go, a lawsuit — eventually settled out of court — prevented the film from premiering in Park City, Utah, at the 2004 Slamdance festival.
So the film screened at Slamdance 2005 and again at the American Film Institute’s Los Angeles Film Festival in November. It won a special mention award at AFI and received a rave review from critic John Anderson in the industry newspaper Variety. The review predicted that we’d be hearing a lot more about Factor 8.
So far, we haven’t. Duda suspects there are powerful interests blocking the distribution of his movie, that important people don’t want you to see it or even be aware of it.
I don’t know about that, but I know his film, Factor 8: The Arkansas Prison Blood Scandal, is a relevant and demoralizing work that ought to be offered to a mass audience. And that its failure to secure any sort of national release — either theatrically or on television — is a compounding shame.
Factor 8 is a no-frills documentary about the prison plasma program at the Cummins Unit Infirmary that operated from the 1960s until 1994. Throughout this period, the state prison system collected and sold inmate blood. Much of the blood from Cummins wound up in a pharmaceutical clotting medication (called Factor 8) used to treat hemophiliacs. While it was illegal to distribute blood extracted from a prison population in the United States, the prison system contracted to have the blood shipped overseas.
While common sense might suggest that blood drawn from a prison population — at $2 to $7 a pop — might be suspect in any case, Duda has marshaled a handful of compelling interviews that suggest the program was essentially run by inmates with little supervision. Various interviewees alleged inmates that engaged in high-risk behaviors such as intravenous drug use and jailhouse promiscuity were allowed to "bleed," records were falsified and spoiled plasma was refrozen and sold.
At this point you might be skeptical. After all, some of Duda’s sources are inmates and former inmates of the Cummins unit. They might be indulging old grievances; we might suspect their agendas. Although his interviews with officials in charge of the program are more convincing — these men alternately bluster and dissemble, managing at times to look arrogant and terrified — we know that interviews can be edited and that not everyone comes across well on camera.
Yet thousands of people — in Canada, in Scotland, in Japan and in other places around the world — have contracted hepatitis C and HIV from contaminated blood used in the manufacture of Factor 8. People are still dying as a result of diseases contracted through this contaminated blood. In 1997, the Associated Press conservatively estimated the worldwide death toll at 3,000 — Duda says the actual toll is many times that. There are criminal investigations under way in Canada, where several people have already been convicted and the head of the Red Cross has issued a public apology, and in Scotland, where there is speculation that Bill Clinton — who as governor of Arkansas took steps to ensure that the lucrative prison blood program continued — might be called to testify.
In 1983, blood from the prison system was recalled after the Food and Drug Administration determined that infected inmates had been allowed to give blood. The recall came too late to keep some of the tainted blood from being distributed. While the officials in charge of administering the prison blood program deny on camera that any contaminated blood came out of Cummins, such assertions seem ludicrous in light of the prison system’s notorious history.
(Arkansas once had its prison system declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. Through the 1960s, trusties carried firearms and guarded other prisoners and torture devices such as the infamous "Tucker telephone" were employed. The Robert Redford film Brubaker is a fictionalized account of the career of Thomas Murton, who Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller brought in to reform the prison system in 1967. Duda, in a fascinating but abbreviated aside, even turns up evidence of some ghastly Mengele-type medical experimentation in the 1960s.)
While Duda persistently pursues a theme of top-to-bottom government corruption — his chief unanswered question is "What did Bill Clinton know and when did he know it?" — one doesn’t have to share his theory of high-level complicity to be shocked and horrified by the scandal. At the very least someone should have understood that the prison blood program was intrinsically flawed and unacceptably dangerous even if regulations had been scrupulously followed. And given the conditions that exist in most prison environments, it is unreasonable to expect rules not to be broken.
Talking with Duda, it’s easy to see that he’s consumed with this story and has been for a long time. He has been a consultant in two major class-action lawsuits in Europe and Japan where tainted Arkansas blood was distributed, and he worked with Japanese television in production of a Peabody award-winning documentary on the subject.
While some of the details of the blood scandal have been reported (there was a flurry of stories a few years ago), Factor 8 presents them concisely and stands as a chilling indictment of government indifference to the lives of foreigners and inmates.
If there’s a criticism to be made of Factor 8, it’s not of overreach. Clinton may in fact be completely blameless in the scandal, and I can imagine a perfectly sensible reason why his gubernatorial papers are not yet available for public inspection, but it would be interesting to hear what he has to say about Duda’s film.
(Duda seems to treat Rep. Vic Snyder oddly — although Snyder, who worked as a doctor in the prison system in the 1980s, is interviewed on camera and appeared responsive to Duda’s questions and concerned about the implications of the blood scandal, Duda seems to insinuate that the congressman ducked him.)
I’ve worked as an investigative reporter and I recognize Duda’s fervor. I also understand how that fervor might be taken as paranoia by a disinterested party. But there’s a certain kind of personality that digs into these sorts of stories — you can’t spend a decade burrowing through public records and interviewing prisoners without seeming a bit obsessive-compulsive.
I don’t believe there is a conspiracy to suppress Duda’s film, but I can understand why he might believe that. Factor 8 is a well-made movie, but there are a lot of worthy movies that — for one reason or another — aren’t picked up by HBO or another cable outlet. Being controversial is not always a selling point, but I doubt whether any executives passed on Factor 8 because they thought it "too hot" to show. There’s just a lot of competition out there for docs. (On the other hand, if something happens to me after this column runs ...)
Still, this may be the most meaningful documentary you don’t get a chance to see this year. Factor 8 may be flawed, but it is obviously a work of conscience, and raises questions that deserve answers. Maybe it will yet find some sort of distribution. It deserves it. We deserve it.