Open Your Eyes premieres at Vision Expo East on Friday, March 27 at 3:00 pm on the Innovation Stage, Level 1.
NEW YORK—On March 27, Vision Expo East will host the world premiere of “Open Your Eyes,” a documentary that aims to highlight the importance of optometric testing in preventive medicine. Created by Emmy Award winning filmmaker Wayne Chester and the ALLDocs Association, (the Association of Leasholding LensCrafters Doctors) the documentary follows Kerry Gelb, OD, a practicing optometrist and president of ALLDocs, and podcast host Chris Maraboli as they travel across North America, Europe and Costa Rica to show how eye tests can tip doctors off to other diseases.
As part of the documentary, Dr. Gelb travels to Nicoya, Costa Rica to learn about how centenarians have maintained their eye health over the course of a century. There, he also meets with Javier Prada Lopez, OD, to take a look at the rise of myopia in Costa Rican children. Dr. Lopez recently conducted a study that showed that 40 percent of Costa Rican children in urban areas have myopia, while only 10 percent of children in rural areas do.
In addition, Dr. Gelb spends part of the documentary speaking with Carey Gillan, a journalist and the author of Whitewash, and Jeffery Smith, an activist, to understand how the insecticide DDT and the herbicide glyphosate are impacting the human body. Further, he discusses the rise of obesity and inflammation due to historical changes in the public perception of fat and sugar with physician Dr. Ted Naiman, nephrologist Dr. Jason Fung, and more.
In an announcement from The Vision Council, Dr. Gelb said, “The public doesn’t realize that almost 300 diseases can actually manifest in the eye, and the blood vessels of the eye can show us warning signs about many systemic diseases such as hypertension or diabetes, before anywhere else in the body. ‘Open Your Eyes’ unveils the critical message that the eye can be the first place these diseases are diagnosed. The optometrist is the new general practitioner, giving people insights into their health and the right referrals, while equipping them with strategies to properly manage and reverse chronic, preventable diseases.”
This week, VMail Weekend caught up with Dr. Gelb to ask him a few questions about the documentary, his experience making it, and what message he hopes his work will convey.
VMail Weekend: Where did the funding for this documentary come from?
Dr. Kerry Gelb: The funding came from generous sponsor contributions and from the ALLDocs organization itself. The public needs to be educated on why eye exams are essential and the impact the OD can have on public health. Our main sponsors are CooperVision, Bausch + Lomb, Alcon and Johnson & Johnson. Smaller sponsors include ABB Optical, Essilor and Omni Eye Service.
VMW: What was the impetus for you to document this work and take on the documentary project?
KG: To inform the public that the optometrist does much more than prescribe glasses and contact lenses. The eye, when examined by the optometrist, is a biomarker for over 250 systemic diseases. The eye is often the first place diabetes, hypertension, and autoimmune disease appear. Now, even the early diagnosis of Alzheimer's through the eye by the optometrist is within grasp. We are the only primary care profession that can actually see blood vessels noninvasively, so this puts the OD on the forefront to save lives and prevent disease.
VMW: How does this work tie into your role as president of ALLDocs if at all?
KG: ALLDocs is a group of cutting-edge optometrists. Our history has been to offer speakers, education, technology, and business support that can't be found at the typical OD meeting. We have had famous authors, world-renowned physicians, and functional medicine specialists educate our group and, in some cases, contribute to the film. Speakers including Gary Taubs, Dean Ornish, MD, and Ron Rosedale MD, for example. This year, we will have Dr. Robert Lustig and Dr. Chris Knobbe among others. My position as president of ALLDocs allows me to bring innovative information to the group, this film allows me to bring crucial information to the public, so that’s how they tie in.
Emmy Award winning filmmaker Wayne Chester and the ALLDocs Association created the documentary.
VMW: Can you share an example of one of the more touching or surprising stories you encountered on your trip?
KG: Pachito, one of our centenarians, after restoring his vision was able to tie his shoes, see his grandchildren, great grandchildren, great-great grandchildren and watch the girls walk by (his biggest goal). Sight can be taken for granted and being able to see someone have their vision restored and appreciate the simple things was very inspiring.
VMW: Finally, will you be at Vision Expo East for the premiere?
KG: Wayne Chesler (from Bink Films) and I will be there to answer questions after the documentary is shown.
“Open Your Eyes” will premiere at Vision Expo East on Friday, March 27 at 3:00 pm on the Innovation Stage, Level 1. It runs 82 minutes. It will also be available for free viewing after the premiere on OpenYourEyes2020.com and through select screenings in NYC. The trailer is now available at OpenYourEyes2020.com.