Frameline45 SF International LGBTQ+ Film Fest Special Event FREE live screening; Q&A with filmmakers
When maverick Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Debra Chasnoff is diagnosed with stage-4 cancer, she faces down injustice as she always has – with her camera. With the help of her wife Nancy and their chosen family, she traces a journey through the twists and turns of the end of her life. What emerges is an emotionally raw, funny and profoundly intimate portrait of shifting relationships and identities — a story about hanging onto life, as you prepare to let it go.
The World Premiere of PROGNOSIS – notes on living will be held on June 19 in the Frameline45 San Francisco International LGBTQ+ Film Festival; followed by a special live Q&A with filmmakers (encore screening June 26).
ABOUT THE FILM
After being diagnosed with stage-4 breast cancer, documentary director Debra Chasnoff decides to make a film about what it’s like to navigate life with a potentially terminal illness. Accompanied by her wife Nancy, her adult sons, and her LGBTQ2SIA+ chosen family, Debra sets out to capture the physical and emotional rollercoaster of treatment. Underpinned by their decision to not hear the prognosis, Debra and Nancy reveal their most vulnerable moments, as Debra struggles to reconcile her professional identity of activist social justice documentary filmmaker with that of stage-4 cancer patient. Facing the overwhelming bureaucracy and logistics of being a cancer patient, they try everything possible to stall Debra’s slowly declining health, including alternative healing methods like meditation, cannabis treatments, qi gong movement and sound-healing practices. Through it all, they lovingly work toward their common goal—Debra’s survival. With Debra at the helm, their on-camera honesty and candor offer a level of emotional access that is difficult to achieve when mediated by a film crew. They bravely put themselves on display, hoping that their experience would help others.
Debra Chasnoff and executive producer Carrie Lozano initiated the film project in 2015. The world-renowned UCSF Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center granted Debra full access to filming her medical treatments. From there forward, Debra and an intimate circle of family and friends collectively recorded over 200 hours of footage. In a unique co-creation, filmmakers Carrie Lozano, Lidia Szajko, Joan Lefkowitz and Kate Stilley Steiner completed the film with her wife Nancy Otto and editor Mike Shen. The team progressively assumed the roles of co-caregivers as well as co-creators, determined to carry Debra through to her final act, and her film through to completion.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
Academy Award–winning documentary filmmaker Debra Chasnoff was a nationally recognized champion of using film as an organizing tool for social justice campaigns. A pioneering leader, she was at the forefront of the international movement working to create safe and welcoming schools and communities. Debra’s highly acclaimed documentaries addressing youth and bias issues, including the groundbreaking film It’s Elementary, are widely hailed by educators and advocates as among the best tools available today to help open up dialogue and activism around many of the most challenging issues affecting young people’s lives and school environments. Her first film, Choosing Children, explored the once unheard of idea that lesbians and gay men could become parents after coming out. She won the 1991 Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject) for her film Deadly Deception: General Electric, Nuclear Weapons and Our Environment. She was also the founder of GroundSpark, and served the organization in a directing capacity from 1982 until her death in 2017.
Kate Stilley Steiner
Kate Stilley Steiner is a documentary filmmaking producer, director and editor. She also is a co-founder and co-director of Citizen Film, the documentary non-profit media organization she started in 2001 with Sam Ball and Sophie Constantinou. Her most recent producing credits include American Creed. The CPB-funded feature-length documentary premiered in 2018 in the PBS primetime core schedule and was one of 2018’s most widely carried documentaries. Debra Chasnoff’s long-time collaborator, Kate edited several films with her, including two in the Respect for All series. They also co-produced several titles together, including Let’s Get Real, It’s Still Elementary and One Wedding & a Revolution.
ABOUT OUR PARTNERS & CAMPAIGN
PROGNOSIS – notes on living, in partnership with Bay Area organizations the Koret Foundation, Breast Cancer Action, J-Sei, and San Francisco Village, as well as national organizations International End of Life Doula Association (INELDA), and SAGE(Advocacy & Services for LGBT Elders), will spark discussion around the often challenging topics of serious illness, end of life care, and death. The film is designed to invite audiences to consider their mortality and discover ways to live more fully in the present.