"I might not have said this the first day after surgery,
but looking back now, I would definitely do it again.
If I had three kidneys, I would give another one away."
Ellie, kidney donor
SYNOPSIS (hd video documentary, TRT 69:25)
Perfect Strangers tells the story of two unique and engaging characters. One is Ellie, who embarks on an unpredictable journey of twists and turns, determined to give away one of her kidneys. Five hundred miles away, Kathy endures nightly dialysis and loses hope of receiving a transplant until Ellie reads her profile on an online website. Both women face unexpected challenges as their parallel stories unfold over the course of four years. Perfect Strangers raises questions about what motivates an individual towards an extreme act of compassion. Why are we unnerved by the idea of such an extreme gift?
I first met Ellie in 2007 when she was in the early stages of becoming an altruistic kidney donor. Articulate, insightful, and irreverent, Ellie is an ideal protagonist for this experiential, character-driven film and her actions cannot be easily dismissed by the viewer. From the outset, Ellie granted me unprecedented access to her story. However, the primary challenge was the unpredictability of the narrative. The production hit a roadblock when Ellie and Kathy entered the pairs program but got back on track several years later when Ellie agreed to a non-directed donation coordinated by the National Kidney Registry. Perfect Strangers might have ended with the scene of Ellie's kidney going out the hospital door had her recipient chosen to remain anonymous. Fortunately, for Ellie and for the film, the recipient contacted her.
As the population ages, the need for organs inexorably rises and the wait list for a cadaver kidney grows. Altruistic organ donation from a living donor is the new frontier that could significantly increase the supply of organs. But many people feel discomfited by the idea and policymakers are wary of the implications. Through the prism of one kidney's journey, Perfect Strangers confronts thorny philosophical questions about acts of compassion, altruism, and ultimately, who deserves a second chance at life and at what cost.
World Premiere, SF DocFest , San Francisco, June 2013.
Jan Krawitz has been independently producing documentary films for 35 years. Her work has been exhibited at film festivals in the United States and abroad, including Sundance, the New York Film Festival, Nyon, Edinburgh, AFI/Silverdocs, London, Sydney, Full Frame, South by Southwest and the Flaherty Film Seminar. Her most recent film, Big Enough was broadcast on the national PBS series P.O.V. and internationally in eighteen countries. Her short documentaries, Mirror Mirror, Drive-in Blues and In Harm's Way were also shown on national PBS. Krawitz's short film Styx is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. She has had one-woman retrospectives of her films at many venues including the Portland Art Museum, Hood Museum of Art, Rice Media Center, the Austin Film Society, and the Ann Arbor Film Festival. She was awarded an artist's residency at Yaddo for spring 2011. Krawitz is currently the director of the M.F.A. program in Documentary Film and Video in the Department of Art & Art History at Stanford University.
"Voluntary Organ Donor Inspires Krawitz", SF360, Michael Fox, June 2011
Department of Art & Art History
435 Lasuen Mall
Stanford, CA 94305-2018