Breast Cancer Documentaries

A List of Documentaries Recommended for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

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For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, view these documentaries that deal with the disease that claims the lives of so many women we love.

The documentaries don't promise a cure, nor do they deliver medical advice. But they do offer insights about how different women cope with their diagnosis and enter into treatment for the disease, and handle the changes their condition causes in their lives.

Here's a list of three highly recommended documentaries about breast cancer:

The Lulu Sessions 

The first documentary feature by filmmaker S. Casper Wong, "The Lulu Sessions" is a loving memorial and tribute to her dearest companion, Dr. Louise M. Nutter, Ph.D., who succumbed to breast cancer at age 42. She passed away just 15 months after having been diagnosed with the disease and sent, a week later, for radical surgery.

"Lulu," as she was known to friends, knew from the outset what she was in for. She was a prominent pharmacologist and cancer researcher, whose work on developing effective drugs for treating the disease garnering Noble Prize buzz. Alas, she was never able to complete her research for a cure. Wong appears in the film periodically and provides ongoing voice over narration that informs about her relationship with Lulu and about Lulu's accomplishments before her diagnosis. With admirable sensitivity and utmost respect, Wong documented Lulu's journey from the moment she learned of the malignancy to the time of her death, chronicling the practical and emotional complexities of dealing with the progressive disease. Moments of reflection and angst become all the more poignant because of the film's humor and frequently celebratory tone. From a very personal singular perspective, "The Lulu Sessions" illustrates what one woman's life is like when breast cancer becomes part of it.

Beauty and the Breast

This is a Canadian documentary that presents the breast cancer experiences of several women whose pre-cancer lifestyles were quite different. The group of women includes an interpreter and performer for the deaf, two photo models whose bodies and good looks are their fortune, an equestrian who competes at horse shows, and several mothers. Each of the women, all of whom live in Montreal and are being treated in the city's hospitals and cancer centers, copes with her diagnosis and the progression of the disease and treatments in her own way, and each arrives at a different denouement, some in remission and successfully cured, and others, unfortunately, not.

The women are all charismatic and all of their stories are quite compelling, especially because we meet their spouses and children and see, to some extent, how the disease impacts them, as well. By following the varied choices of her leading characters, filmmaker Liliana Komorowska presents viewers with a fairly wide range of perspectives on how women with different socioeconomic backgrounds and current circumstances come to grips with the great challenges presented by breast cancer, and of their alternative ways of coping with their courses of treatment for the disease and with the monumental changes it introduces into their lives.

Take note that the cost of treatment never becomes a pivotal consideration for the women whose stories are told in this documentary, perhaps because the film is made in Canada. There is some distinction made between public and private medical care when women seek treatment in private facilities because they will be attended to with greater alacrity. However, it is clear that the Canadian health care system makes treatment accessible to all.

Pink Ribbons, Inc.

Directed by Lea Pool, "Pink Ribbons, Inc." presents a highly critical investigation and evaluation of the 'pink' industry that's developed around breast cancer (yes, there's a breast cancer industry, and it's doing quite well for itself).

The documentary raises questions about whether the economics of breast cancer are effectively contributing to the cause of finding a cure, or whether they're more successful in creating a palliative veneer around the disease and the upheaval it creates. A number of breast cancer patients at various stages of the disease express concerns that pink ribbons, tee shirts, umbrellas, cups and other merchandise, as well as the branding associations staged by yogurt, automobile and other manufacturers and marketers, the 'for the cure' marathons, parachute jump meet ups and other events are actually draining resources from the funding pool that propels cancer research and the availability of viable treatment options. "Pink Ribbons, Inc." is a must-see film with some shocking revelations that will make you very aware of some of the subtler issues surrounding breast cancer awareness, prevention and treatment. The documentary is available on DVD.