Film Reviews

Seeking the Cure

This Saturday and Sunday, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston holds three screenings of a film that's a mystery, a detective story and a documentary -- as well as a tragedy and a triumph of the spirit.

Aptly, Rachel's Daughters debuts not far from the Texas Medical Center and its immense research facilities. That's because this film, subtitled "Searching for the Causes of Breast Cancer," chronicles, in sometimes graphic terms, eight victims' hunt for answers about their illness.

The filmmakers, Allie Light and Irving Saraf, won Oscars for their documentary In the Shadow of the Light and will introduce all three screenings of Rachel's Daughters. Accompanying them for the Sunday show will be Nancy Evans and Essie Mormen, two breast-cancer survivors who are part of the film.

Earlier screenings and a cable-television premiere prompted acclaim for the low-budget film and its effectiveness in raising awareness of this devastating disease. Researchers say 180,000 new cases are diagnosed annually, with 44,000 deaths from breast cancer yearly. One of those fatalities was a female researcher involved in the making of the film.

The movie details the searchers' travels as they interview top experts, who field their questions with straight answers about what's known -- and what's suspected -- about the causes and cures of breast cancer. Their discussions are mostly uncomplicated, and animation aids help to explain the scientific terms.

Like the disease itself, the assembled searchers cut through ethnic and age classifications. They include women from their early 30s through their late 50s, with careers as diverse as nannies, epidemiologists, vocational nurses and telephone line workers.

While conclusive answers are not uncovered, especially for the dramatic escalation of the disease, the research conducted in the film points strongly to environmental factors -- pollution, contamination by everyday chemicals and modern technologies that may disrupt the natural functions of the body.

Working from those theories, the group found a fitting title for the documentary. Rachel's Daughters honors the environmental work 36 years ago of Rachel Carson, author of the book Silent Spring.

-- George Flynn

Screenings of Rachel's Daughters are at 1 and 3 p.m., Saturday, October 10 and 6 p.m., Sunday, October 11. They will be held in the Brown Auditorium of MFAH at 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7531. Admission is $35.

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George Flynn
Contact: George Flynn