Sunday, June 3, 2012

Marc Smolowitz's THE POWER OF TWO tracks twins struggling with cystic fibrosis

Doesn't that headline sounds like heaven? I am being ironic, but documentary-lovers should give THE POWER OF TWO a chance, for filmmaker Marc Smolowitz, the twins who are his subject, their lives and that of their community that he explores rather well all combine to make the movie a more uplifting experience than the downer you might have expected. Not that Smolowitz prettifies things over much: We get a look into the lives of those suffering with cystic fibrosis (from this point, I'll refer to it as CF), which comes off as one of the more ugly, debilitating and -- unless a lung transplant can be found -- eventually fatal diseases in the lexicon.

Smolowitz, shown at right, begins with his twins underwater, below, swimming their hearts (and maybe their lungs) out. When we meet them and learn their story -- starting from babyhood (see the photo further below) right through to recent times -- what most impresses is their twin-ship: how this has made their ability to deal with CF since childhood a somehow easier task, for they were never alone. Born of a Japanese mother and a Caucasian father, Anabel and Isabel, though growing up in America, were nonetheless instilled with the culture of Japan and its "perseverance," along with an unusual understanding of how things really are. As one of the twins tells us during her younger days, "I hope to someday go to college. If I can last that long."

We learn about the disease and how it is caused; we visit a CF support group for people who need -- and some who have already had -- transplants; and we go to CF "camp," a place that Isabel tells us, changed her life. One of the most wrenching experiences -- and I do wish we had seen and heard more about this -- occurs when Isabel meets and falls in love with Andrew Byrnes (the young man who married her and went on to become producer of this film). It was not easy, Anabel tells us, to have to separate from her sister after a life of being always together. (Love comes to Anabel, too, but it's quite a distance down the road.)

When the girls publish a book about their life experience and are asked to go to Japan, Smolowitz takes us along, and we learn of the Japanese bias against organ donation. ("We'd be heroes in America," notes one Japanese donor, "but we are not valued in Japan.") Probably the most startling scene comes when the young women -- in their own Lyndon B. Johnson moment -- show us their scars. Initially shocking, this scene is also relevatory, and takes us full circle to the beginning of the movie, when the girls first told us about wishing that people might see past the scarred outside of a person to the beauty within. Mr. Smolowitz and his young ladies help us do just that. And it's our privilege to see them so fully.

No less a personage than actor Jack Black has raved about this film, calling it "An inspiring triumph.... over unfathomable adversity. A brutal and beautiful tale of shared survival." The Power of Two will be available beginning this Tuesday, June 5, from GoDigital -- on all major digital platforms. Click the GoDigital link above to see which platforms these might be....

The photos above are from the film itself, except the one immediately above, which comes courtesy of the IDA, and shows, left to right, producer and husband Andrew Byrnes, Isabel, Anabel, 
director Smolowitz and Trent Wallace (Anabel's husband).

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