Last week I went to the Curzon Soho to see Sarah’s Story, an awareness raising cinema advert produced for the MND Association. It runs for 90 seconds. Believe me, you don’t want it to be longer; your awareness couldn’t take any more raising at this intensity in one sitting. Brilliantly conceived and executed using full-on cinematic effects, Sarah’s Story graphically – and viscerally – conveys what it is like to be mugged by an unseen assailant who progressively assaults and steals your normal functions leaving your mind trapped in a malfunctioning body. In this case the “mugger” is motor neurone disease (MND).
In 2007 the MND Association did the poster campaign on the Underground “John’s Journey” which attracted complaints to the ASA, but lots of good publicity for their cause. I wouldn’t be surprised if the same thing happens this time, only more so. When you are trying to get over what it means to be assaulted by a devastating neurodegenerative disease, pulling your punches does no good. So full marks to everyone on the MND Association team who delivered this result and got it all donated, probably about £1m in production resources.
Sarah’s Story will upset many, including probably some people with MND. But that is unavoidable and part of what it has to do to get its message over. Sarah Ezekiel – the real life Sarah whose story it dramatises – spoke very movingly after the screening about her motivation to participate in the filming and production process. Using automated speech of course she said,
I’m so pleased that I was able to take part in ‘Sarah’s Story’. I think the advert is shocking and disturbing and reflects the devastation that MND causes. I hope that it will raise more awareness and we will be nearer to finding a cure.”
Here’s something else I find shocking – Sarah’s Story has a “15 certificate” for cinema release. Younger British filmgoers don’t need protecting from the truth of what it is really like to have a devastating illness, do they? Perhaps the British Board of Film Classification would like to explain just who they think they are protecting and from what by slapping on this restriction? Of course having MND is horrible: that’s just the point!
As well as the microsite with the advert and stills from the filming, if you are into the techno side of modern film-making, then spend 13 minutes to watch the “making of Sarah’s Story” for a behind the scenes look at how this got from concept to screen. Then you will appreciate where all the talent and money goes to make 90 high-impact seconds on the big screen. You won’t forget it easily. Nor should you.