A film with my illness in it
Cystic fibrosis is hardly a sexy topic for a movie, but Max McGuire’s new film, ‘Foreverland’, tackles CF in depth. It’s strange, though, to see my illness on screen, writes ORLA TINSLEY
AS LIFE-THREATENING illnesses go, cystic fibrosis is not one of the sexy ones. People don’t usually make films or write plays about it, and it doesn’t often feature in works of art. But a new movie, Foreverland, is probably the first feature- length film to tackle cystic fibrosis (CF) in serious depth, in an attempt to raise awareness and make CF accessible to the average moviegoer.
The film’s European premiere is held in the Triskel Arts Centre in Cork this Friday, in conjunction with the CF charity Build4Life and Cork University Hospital, to raise money for a new €1.5 million extension to paediatric services.
When Joe Browne, head of Build4Life and fundraiser for Cork University Hospital, saw the trailer for Foreverland online earlier this year, he contacted Max McGuire, the film’s writer and director, who also has CF. McGuire, a 31-year-old Canadian, will speak at the film premiere.
“I’ve seen everything about the illness, all the documentaries and medicalised stuff, but never anything like this – and think it will help people understand CF,” says Browne, whose 12-year-old son, Padraig, also has the illness.
The charity has raised more than €4 million for cystic fibrosis since 2007. “Parents had been telling me they had been lobbying for 10 years, and I didn’t want to be telling kids in 20 years we’re still waiting. It stuck in my gut and drove me,” he says.
CF is caused by an irregularity in salt transport in the body which leads to thick, sticky mucus building up, most commonly in the lungs, though it affects many organs in the body and has a plethora of symptoms. It requires daily treatment and at times hospitalisation, which is why treatment centres are so important.
Foreverland is a roadtrip movie. After the death of his friend Bobby from CF, Will, who also has the disease, journeys to Mexico to meet an elusive priest and to scatter Bobby’s ashes into a legendary healing salt pond. It is the first time Will has left his hometown, and only with the encouragment of Bobby’s sister Hannah does he agree to embark on an adventure along the Pacific Coast Highway in a car his parents have given him for his 21st birthday.
This intense exploration of a young adult immersed in his illness is inspired by the director’s own experience of the disease.
“I did lose a peer, and it took a while to realise I had to work harder or lose. A consistent drop in my lung function and realising my sister and I were the only two CFers left of our peers made me want to make this,” says McGuire. “This is Will’s first attempt at autonomy and living alone without structure.”
Will tells Hannah the one thing he refuses to do is hope for the future, like a stroppy adolescent hell-bent on punishing himself over future events, such as death, that he has no control over. McGuire links this obsession with death that started in adolescence to the journey in The Wizard of Oz.