Friday, April 25, 2008

Where's Monica's Pink Ribbon?

When my friend, Monica*, was first diagnosed with breast cancer in her early 30s, she expected to do what all breast cancer survivors are expected to do: fight it, stay positive, and, above all, never let down her peers by being diagnosed again.

But not long after her daughter was born, Monica's cancer came back. Every doctor's appointment brought more disappointing news about where the disease was spreading. And little by little the pink ribbons and chemo-comraderie that defined her first battle with cancer were gone. The word "survivor" was replaced with "tragedy," and a reporter told her that her story was too depressing for a drive-time audience. "I think it'd be better if you just stopped your story with the birth of your daughter," the reporter advised. Silence. "Is that out of line?"

Out of line? Perhaps. But whose fault is that? The "diagnosis-fight-happy ending" story is exactly the one audiences expect--and want--to hear. While feminism may have helped breast cancer surivors unite, fear continues to allow metastatic patients to be ostracized. And the universally upbeat tone of the breast cancer movement often fails to communicate the strongest message of all: breast cancer is a disease that kills. Indiscriminately.

(*Name has been changed to protect identity.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Beyond Belief Wins Best Documentary at Sonoma Valley Film Festival

It is no surprise that the Sonoma Valley Film Festival is considered one of the best destination film festivals around. I loved every second of my time there (even when it was 90 degrees on Saturday and finding a glass of wine was easier than tracking down water!). The festival is extremely well organized by people who really care about films and filmmakers. Particularly exciting for me was that my husband, Dennis, and 7-month-old daughter, Isabelle, joined me for the event, and two days before the Awards Ceremony Isabelle started clapping for the first time! So, when BEYOND BELIEF won, she was ready! Read the Sonoma News article here.

Freakonomics Blog Spreads Buzz

Read here.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Congratulations, Ilir!

Ilir is packing his bags and heading to Boston to get his MA in Photojournalism at BU. I'm so proud of you, Ilir! (For background on Ilir's journey from Kosovo's ashes to college... see blog entry on Wednesday, January 16, 2008.)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A United Nations Day

When I told my mother that BEYOND BELIEF was screening at the United Nations the day after Easter, she reacted with the kind of surprise and amazement that told me I had earned her respect in a new way. "Wow. Beth. The United Nations..." is all the formerly eloquent English teacher could muster. My mother-in-law had a similar reaction, and the next thing I knew the three of us were having our picture taken in front of UN Headquarters with the 179 Member State flags flying in an undulating row behind us and sharing stories about my family's Italian and Hungarian heritage and my husband's Irish ancestry.

At lunch when the waiter suggested the special turbot fish that had just been flown in from Holland, I couldn't resist. We were heading to the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, after all, and I imagined this high-end fish was just the kind of meal a Netherlands diplomat and former Secretary-General would eat during lunch breaks. Two hours later, I greeted UN staffers and special guests with a full belly and a new nickname: "Turbo" (which we decided was better than "Litte Miss Fifty Dollar Fish").

Every time I have an opportunity to connect with audiences I am grateful. But to do it at the UN was something truly special. The event was organized by Gay Rosenblum-Kumar for the United Nations Department of Political Affairs, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and the United Nations Development Programme, and Susan Koscis of Search for Common Ground. Together, Gay and Susan's sheer love of film and dedication to advocacy keeps a film series going on a shoe-string budget.

Following the screening, I joined Susan Retik (one of the 9/11 widows featured in the film) and S.K. Guha, a senior program specialist with the United Nations Development Fund for Women, for a panel discussion with the audience. A Norweigan woman in the front row made an astute observation about the Taliban's misrepresentation of Islamic law. An American diplomat wanted to understand how my own life had been effected by the filming experience. And an Iraqi refugee wanted Susan to share her thoughts about the politicization of 9/11 - "How do you feel about your husband's memory being used to fuel other acts of violence?" he asked.

As Susan began to answer, I looked up into the crowd, and all the way in the back row I could see my mother... snapping pictures...