Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dying Wish receives Indie Award for inspiration

Dying Wish has been awarded the international Indie award in the category of viewer impact/motivational/inspirational. The film continues to attract the interest of hospitals and hospices looking for more effective tools to stimulate conversation around the issue of stopping eating and drinking at end of life.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Dying Wish to screen at Florida Hospice Conference 2010

Dying Wish, about Dr. Michael Miller's refusal of food and fluids at the end of his journey with cancer will screen at the May 2010 Florida Hospice Conference. Director, Karen van Vuuren and co-producer Francesca Nicosia will present the film to an audience of hospice and palliative care professionals. Library Journal reviewed Dying Wish in the January issue and called it "inspirational."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Dying Wish at Ojai Film Fest

Around 1.5 hours from L.A., Ojai is a picturesque valley town that has hosted its own film festival for the last seven or so years (

Dying Wish was selected from nearly 500 entries and chosen to screen in the category of documentary short. Our film was unique in a number of ways.  It was a first film.  It was a film with a remarkably low budget, shot by a teenage student camera crew, and it was a film with an educational function that we hope will find applicability in a healthcare setting.  Yet, it is also a film with broad appeal because we all know people who are going to die, and we, ourselves, will face that ultimate conclusion.

The audience response to the film was overwhelmingly positive, as it has been wherever it has been shown.  Meeting other documentary filmmakers gave us ideas around marketing and funding for the film's future.  We are also planning on submitting the film to a number of other film festivals that spotlight the work of women filmmakers, and seeing where that takes us.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Dying Wish recently screened at the clinical conference of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in Dallas, Texas.  The response was overwhelmingly positive.  It was standing room only for our presentation on documentary as a creative tool for end-of-life education.  Spiritual counselors, social workers, nursing staff, and physicians engaged in a lively conversation on the various topics raised by the film including - patient rights, (control over the circumstances surrounding death) physical aspects of dehydration at end of life and what does it mean to be ready to die? 

We structured the session in such a way that the audience received a list of questions to consider while watching the film.  Participants made notes and conferred with their neighbors on their respective responses to the questions.  We then gathered information from the audience in order to reach certain conclusions or emphasize points made through the film.

Nursing staff, in particular, felt the film validated their experiences with patients who had made the choice to stop eating and drinking.  They saw the film as a valuable resource for patient education, and also as a means of educating the staff of long-term care facilities, where residents are often forced to eat and drink when they are clearly at a point where it is neither beneficial nor desirable on the part of the residents.

The Colorado Center for Hospice and Palliative Care gave us another opportunity to demonstrate the educational potential of Dying Wish by offering us a workshop session at their conference in Breckenridge on October 24.  The experience of Dallas was repeated in Breckenridge.  Our room was packed, with standing room only and some eager conference attendees unable to enter to experience our session.

We are convinced that Dying Wish has an amazing potential to demystify the dying process for many, many people - and allow more conscious, advance conversations about wishes for end-of-life.  Ideally, we would like to secure funding that would enable us to send free copies of the film to every hospital, hospice, nursing home, medical educational institution and  library in the country.  A dream is also funding to allow us to present the film in person to some of these establishments, so we can guide them in the most effective use of the film as an educational tool.

Meanwhile... the journey of taking this wonderful gift into the wide world continues with our visit to the Ojai Film Festival in California this weekend.  The film screens Thursday and Saturday - November 6 and 8.  

Saturday, September 20, 2008

September 20, 2008 A Documentary's Journey

Taking Dying Wish into the world is fulfilling and challenging.  We are thrilled at the interest in this film, and its potential use for end-of-life education.  

We could honestly go on a national - perhaps international tour of hospices to show the film and talk about using it with patients, families, caregivers, if someone would fund us to do this! It could really be a full-time job!  SEND US YOUR DONATIONS, NOW!

We are doing what we can, and slowly, but surely, we are making an impact.

Recently, the Ojai film festival invited us to show the film in California in November.  We'll be appealing for donations to make that happen!  It's a great achievement - and we want to make the most of it. (Filmmakers generally pay their own way.)

Meanwhile, you can see from our website what we have been doing.

It is wonderful to hear from people about how the film is being used.  One Canadian end-of-life worker recently told me about an experience with a dying patient.  This patient had ALS and had already "attempted" a fast that would move him closer to his death.  It had been ill-thought out, and undertaken without planning - and without the patient really having considered what he was doing.  The patient, his wife, and the end-of-life worker watched the film together, and it opened up an entire conversation about the why , when, and how of refusing food and fluids. The patient and his partner were reportedly "glued to the screen" throughout the film, and felt very comforted seeing Michael's dying process.  No pun intended - but Dying Wish was really food for thought.

That's the goal of Dying Wish and it is what we will be presenting at the Colorado and national hospice conferences in October...a picture of how documentaries like Dying Wish can open doors to discussions about sensitive issues and facilitate a more conscious approach to death and dying.
Karen van Vuuren