Memento mori is an evocative cinematic journey alongside the living and the dying, bringing to the screen a human drama never-before captured on film. With remarkable access to Canada’s busiest organ-transplant hospital, we witness one of the most profound experiences in any human life: the loss of a child, and the agonizing decision this tragedy demands. The documentary was created by two acclaimed Edmonton-based documentarians, director Niobe Thompson and producer Rosvita Dransfeld,
Memento mori grips the viewer in a relentless, emotional embrace—propelling us from moments of unexpected joy to unbearable heartbreak—until the very final frame. An arresting tour de force of vérité filmmaking, immersing us completely in a world few of us understand but which we’ll all one day encounter.
November 10 at 7:00 p.m.
Screening followed by Q&A
with filmmakers Niobe Thompson, Rosvita Dransfeld and the Kidney Foundation
Encore screening on November 13 at 1:00 p.m.
8712 – 109 St.
Memento Mori brings viewers face-to-face with stories and characters rarely or never-before filmed. Matthew is the 28-year-old victim of a senseless tragedy, fighting for life surrounded by his shocked parents and family. A floor away, a newborn baby is also fading, while her young parents pray for a miracle. Fathers and grandfathers sit in agonizing limbo, hoping they will have a future with their children if the right organs turn up in time.
High above, chartered jets crisscross the skies, bearing precious organs and teams of surgeons from one side of the continent to the other―part of the fascinating and hyper-expensive system for cheating death that is organ-transplant medicine.
But these considerations are far from the minds of Matthew’s family. They must confront the worst possible outcome to their trial, and find, if they can, some goodness in it. Memento mori follows Matthew’s family through the most trying week of their lives, and beyond, to face a strange new reality. They know nothing of the families on the other side of the hospital wall, but the viewer moves from their grief to witness the unspeakable relief and joy that a tragedy like Matthew’s can release.
In a transplant hospital, every facet of the human experience—joy, anguish, pain, and a profound appreciation for the beauty of life and the inevitability of death—is concentrated in one building and let loose to roam the halls. With stunning access, filmmaker Niobe Thompson was able to capture the human side of transplant medicine in unprecedented detail and with unvarnished honesty. We follow as organs are rushed by air and ground ambulance to the hospital, while the ticking clock threatens to slam the door on these efforts. Through long nights in the surgical theatre, in small meeting rooms inside the ICU, and at the patients’ bedsides, we witness the painful decisions that lead to life—and to death.
A remarkable artistic achievement, managing the dangerous power of un-restricted access to humans at their most vulnerable with genuine sympathy and commitment.
About Rosvita Dransfeld
Gemini Award winning producer, director and writer Rosvita Dransfeld produces character-driven, cinema verite feature documentaries. In a body of work that includes more than 300 short films and documentaries, the German-born filmmaker searches for ‘the truth behind the curtain’. Her production company, ID Productions, is a Gemini Award winning documentary film and digital media company dedicated to using cinema as a catalyst for social and political change. Their mandate is to create films and media strategies that empower and inspire. Over the years, ID has worked nationally and internationally with a wide range of partners including NFB, CBC, TVO, Knowledge Network, CTV, OMNI TV, ZDF, ARD and ARTE.
About Niobe Thompson
Niobe Thompson, co-founded of Clearwater Productions, is a Cambridge-trained anthropologist with a reputation for bringing cutting-edge science to the screen in ways that delight, inspire and sometimes shock his audiences. Code Breakers, his 2011 documentary on the earliest peopling of the Americas, won double Gemini Awards for “Best Cinematography” and “Best Science Documentary”, while the same year, Tipping Point: Age of the Oil Sands won two Gemini nominations, for “Best Direction” and “Best Social/Political Documentary”. Just two years earlier, Thompson’s Inuit Odyssey was awarded “Best Science Documentary” at the 2009 World Television Awards in Banff. In 2012, he directed, produced and hosted The Perfect Runner, now airing on CBC in Canada, and on ARTE and DR in Europe. Thompson also brought the BBC’s Frozen Planet into the Russian Arctic to shoot part of the latest David Attenborough nature spectacular, airing around the world in 2011 and 2012. He is is a frequent keynote speaker on subjects ranging from human evolution to energy politics, and has published books on human rights and weapons proliferation.