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Sickboy review: Facing life's challenges with humour

Andrew MacCormack's inspiring film Sickboy was screened at the PSBT Open frame Film Festival as part of the MINI-INPUT section

Sukhpreet Kahlon

The MINI-INPUT section at the PSBT Open Frame Film Festival 2018, showcases some of the best public service broadcasting films and programmes from around the world, stories which explore unconventional and new ways of telling stories. The films in this section have been curated by Iris Yudai and Deniz Sertkol who lead the analyses and discussions around the films.

Sickboy was screened as part of the section titled ‘Opening Up Conversations’, a section that explored documentaries that initiate public discussion on subjects that are controversial and ways in which filmmakers challenge the status quo and bring difficult topics to light.

Canadian film Sickboy by Andrew MacCormack follows a 29-year-old yoga instructor Jeremie Saunders, as he deals with a fatal disease, cystic fibrosis, in the most unexpected way. The framing idea of the film is that if all of us are affected by illness in some way, why can’t we just talk about it?

Jeremie finds a novel way of talking about his illness and that of others - humour! He creates an irreverent radio podcast with his friends, to discuss life threatening diseases with people diagnosed with them.

Through an irreverent, non-panic-stricken and brutally honest way of looking at diseases, the podcast enables an ease of conversation, and opens up concerns about death and dying in a frank and refreshing manner. As Jeremie poignantly puts it, “Laughing about a disease takes away its power and I want everyone to find that.”

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The film maps his personal journey and that of his family with cystic fibrosis and Sickboy is as much deeply personal as it is about the ways in which Jeremie’s podcast has taken the lid off uncomfortable truths. He explores his relationship with his wife and the ways in which the couple has not been discussing the inevitability of his death despite it looming large in their lives. There are several heart-wrenching moments in this extraordinary film, especially the moments when Jeremie can almost feel death nipping at the heels and we share his utter powerlessness and dismay.

Sickboy also opens up ways of thinking about the difference between showing illness and voyeurism. It also poignantly makes observations about how diseases do not discriminate between people and how strangely, we are all connected in more ways that we can understand or comprehend. The feeling of oneness with the community and humanity at large underline the tremendous spirit of the film.

The reactions to the radio podcast at the end of the film bear testimony to the ways in which, what started out as a sort of a fun, irreverent experiment; made a real difference to those who were encouraged to think about their lives in different ways, drawing inspiration from the luminous lives of those who refused to let the prospect of dying define their way of living. While going through the reactions of people to the podcast, Jeremie tells his friends jokingly, “We’re awesome”, and they truly are.

Related topics

Open Frame Film Festival