Coming to theatres today, Friday, April 8: BE HERE NOW: THE ANDY WHITFIELD STORY
Lilibet Foster’s chronicle of the SPARTACUS star’s cancer fight made its bow at the Los Angeles Film Festival last year, where it claimed the documentary audience award. Other screenings have included Hot Springs Doc, Santa Barbara, and Documentary Edge, among other events.
When Andy Whitfield was cast as the lead in the Starz television series SPARTACUS: BLOOD AND SAND, the handsome Welsh engineer turned actor had finally achieved a career dream. Although the critically acclaimed show was renewed, the production was delayed when Whitfield was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. With his supportive wife, Vashti, and their two young children at his side, the amiable actor was determined to recover, and invited Foster, an Academy Award-nominated documentarian, to chronicle the process, hoping it could help other families facing the same diagnosis. While her film can’t escape all of the conventions of disease-focused documentaries, Foster provides an intimate, sympathetic, and surprisingly personable view of the Wakefields as they try to hold on to their positivity while seeking treatments both traditional and alternative. If the somewhat overlong film perhaps indulges in Whitfield’s celebrity a bit too much – in particular the embrace by his fandom of the titular family motto, which crops up here as a popular tattoo adopted in support or, later, in memory of the actor – it nevertheless succeeds in conveying a clear sense of a loving couple, and family, not willing to succumb to fear or anger when faced with mortality.