Davidov edits health care ‘shell game’ doc in NOLA


Maggie Hadleigh-West and Ilko Davidov

Chicago filmmaker Ilko Davidov is storming into 2015 like a polar vortex.

Besides signing a distribution deal for the 2015 Nelson Algren doc that he co-roduced and co-directed, he has temporarily relocated to New Orleans, where he’ll spend the next nine months editing his friend Maggie Hadleigh-West’s film, “Sick To Death!

The theme of the film, which Davidov calls “a tough subject,” seeks to condemn the shell games of the health care, pharmaceutical and food industries by detailing and analyzing the life of grief that Hadleigh-West endured as a result of their failure to detect and prevent a rather common thyroid problem that she carried from childhood into her 30s.

The work represents the first partnership between the Davidov and Hadleight-West, a native Louisianian director and Guggenheim fellow.

They met in 2011, when Hadleigh-West’s documentary about the hip hop world of a Brooklyn housing project, “Player Hating, a love story,” screened at CIMMfest.

At the time, Davidov, who cofounded CIMMfest with Josh Chicoine in 2008, was so impressed with her work that he joked to programmer Mike Phillips, “If this film does not screen, I’m gonna quit.”

It also punctuates what he describes as one of the most satisfying aspects of the festival: “You put artists together and they meet and the next thing you know they’re collaborating.”

Davidov and Hadleigh-West launched into post Jan. 5, sorting through more than 90 hours of footage containing more than 50 interviews and 200 iPhone videos that Hadleigh-West has been compiling since 2011.

Featuring doctors in LA, nutritional experts in New York and 29 thyroid patients from “all over the country,” the material also includes substantial first-hand accounts of Hadleigh-West’s experience with narrow-minded doctors and ineffective prescriptions.

“I never worked on a project like this,” Davidov says. “Following the filmmaker, who is the main character, is a different way of telling the story. It takes trust and guts.”

If anything, “Sick 2 Death” contains an abundance of guts.

Hadleigh-West intends to tell her personal story — from the respiratory sickness that began when she was four years old to the docotor recommended “cure” involving a cocktail of toxic iodine that ultimately killed her thyroid — “to disclose the risk that the entire country is facing: undiagnosed thyroid disease.”

Although she continues to suffer occasional bouts of what she calls “brain fog,” she is confident that her editor can make up for them.

“Sometimes it is really hard for me to remember the footage even though I may have shot it and I’m in it,” she explains.

“But Ilko has an uber memory.”

“Sick To Death!” is due for release this fall.