Coming to VOD today, Friday, November 20: TRANSFATTY LIVES
Patrick O’Brien’s chronicle of life with ALS had its world premiere at Tribeca, where it won an audience award. Other fest appearances have included Hot Docs, MIlan, DOK Leipzig, and Poland’s American Film Festival. It now comes to VOD platforms via FilmBuff.
Prior to this project, O’Brien fancied himself an Internet personality and a DJ, and made a few throwaway short films. After he is diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and given a projected life expectancy of 2-5 years, he begins filming his experiences, documenting the increasingly debilitating impact of his condition, ultimately directing others to film scenes when he himself no longer physically able. Indicative of ALS’ progression, O’Brien’s narration shifts over the course of the film from the filmmaker’s voice to a computer-aided text-to-speech. Conceived as a letter to his son, who he conceives during the course of filming but is never able to hold, this voiceover provides a candid, often self-deprecatingly funny, view of the director’s changing reality – one that despite its tragedy, never gets particularly maudlin, and even sometimes hits genuine emotional uplift, as when he eventually finds a care center specifically designed for ALS sufferers. Often fairly rough in its approach – understandable given the circumstances, but also indicative of O’Brien’s general level of talent – the project does benefit substantially from the shaping influence of veteran documentary filmmaker Doug Pray, who serves as a screenwriter and producer here.