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Sean Penn film ‘Black Flies’ depicts grit of NYC EMS

The film calls attention to the stress and traumatic scenes the emergency responder community faces


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By Bill Carey
EMS1 Staff

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — “Black Flies,” the Sean Penn and Tye Sheridan film about emergency medical first responders, debuted at the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday.

Penn and Sheridan, portraying a seasoned paramedic and a rookie respectively, are confronted with a myriad of distressing situations during their service in the New York Fire Department, Variety reported. The film highlights the traumatic scenes EMS encounters and also calls attention to EMS mental health and suicides.

In the film “Black Flies,” Sheridan takes on the role of Ollie Cross, a young paramedic in New York City who receives guidance from Penn’s experienced EMT character. Together, they encounter challenging and tense situations during their shifts, leading Ollie to confront his personal beliefs regarding life and death. Adding to the film’s cast is the legendary boxer, Mike Tyson, portraying Chief Burroughs, the superior officer overseeing Sheridan and Penn’s characters.

The film’s somber ending during credits points out that suicides among the emergency responder community eclipse patient deaths in some areas.

Sheridan expressed his enthusiasm for the opportunity to work alongside Penn, revealing that they both delved deep into researching the world of New York City paramedics. They dedicated themselves to understanding the intricacies of the profession. As a result, their shared commitment fostered a strong rapport and understanding between them.