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Silverdocs Documentary FF

Online Dailies Coverage of SILVERDOCS: AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival taking place June 21-27, 2010 at the AFI Silver Theater


Emerging From A Deep, Dark Sleep


Wednesday, June 13-------We've all seen it in the movies.....a man or woman who has been in a deep coma suddenly wakes up and becomes a kind of savant about the thin line between life and death. It is fascinating stuff, and never more compelling when it happens in real life, and not just to Robert De Niro in the film AWAKENINGS. Four patients who made the incredible transition from comatose to consciousness are profiled in the film COMA, directed by award-winning documentarian Liz Garbus. The film will be shown on the pay cable network Home Box Office next month. The film had its world premiere at Silverdocs this afternoon.

COMA explores the baffling mysteries of the injured brain and its ability to heal itself. In this compelling film, Garbus chronicles the emotional stories of four families over the course of the critical first year of treatment. In following both doctors and rehabilitation specialists, the special burden of bringing people back to life, often after years or even decades of being in a semi-vegitative state, reveals the emotional and psychological burdens incumbent in treating this special trauma. In all, the film comments on the meaning of life and consciousness and the mysteries that science still has not unraveled about the human brain.

Liz GarbusLiz GarbusAt a special post-screening discussion held at the Silverdocs Filmmakers Lounge, Nancy Abraham of HBO Documentary Films presented a special twelve-minute "extra" to the film, which will be available on demand for HBO subscribers next month. The segments focuses on Terry Wallis, a man who was pronounced brain dead after a serious car accident, who miraculously awoke after 19 years. His special challenges in coming back to life and dealing with his now 20 year old daughter (who he does not recognize) are especially poignant.

After the screening, Abraham introduced the panel discussion, which delved into current medical and legislative issues regarding traumatic brain injury. Panelists included director Liz Garbus, Dr. Joseph Giacino, a pioneering trauma treatment expert at JFK Medical Center who is profiled in the film, and Susan Connors, President of the Brain Injury Association of America. The subject of what are the legal and moral implications of ending or sustaining life for people in vegetative states becames a national cause celebre a few years ago, when political pundits weighed in on the fate of Terry Schiavo, a Florida woman who was in a coma for over a decade. The lengths to which government officials or religious "moral guardians" are allowed to determine intimate family decisions (Schiavo's husband wanted to end her life in dignity, based on his wife's instructions, but was opposed by Schiavo's parents) became the inspiration for the making of COMA, which will surely reignite the debate when it receives its highly anticipated premiere on Home Box Office next month.

Sandy Mandelberger, Festival Online Dailies Editor

Comments (2)


Awakenings is an extraordinary movie. The most unbelievable part of the movie was the mass drug testing of the entire catatonic ward. The actress who played Leonard's devoted mother gave co dependency a whole new meaning. She is not evil, and she is happy that Leonard is better, but she has trouble coping with a fifty year old adolescent.

florida drug rehab

Are we gonna see the movie

Are we gonna see the movie on the big screen? I have been waiting for it to appear in my city but I read it wasn't showing anywhere except TV.
Johanna Bartley, Drug Treatment Center Volunteer.


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About Silverdocs Documentary FF

Sandy Mandelberger
(International Media Resources)

Online Dailies Coverage of SILVERDOCS: AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival, taking place at the AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, Maryland from June 21 to 27, 2010.

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