CALGARY HERALD Published on: August 16, 2017 | Last Updated: August 17, 2017 5:29 PM MDT
A Calgary-produced documentary that focuses on living with multiple sclerosis has been selected to be premiered at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival.
Living Proof, a film by Matt Embry, will have its world premiere at TIFF next month.
After submitting the documentary to film festivals around the globe, Embry said it was an honour to learn TIFF would feature it.
“We got the acceptance letter from TIFF, which was obviously a huge thrill for the whole team,” said Embry, president of Spotlight Productions, which he founded alongside the brother-sister team of Ravinder and Manjit Minhas.
Both of the Minhas siblings and Spotlight vice-president Tyler McLeod took on various producing roles for the film, while award-winning cinematographer Patrick McLaughlin was the driving force behind the camera.
The heart of — and central figure in — the film, however, is Embry, who was diagnosed with MS 22 years ago.
“This story is about someone who is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and how that affects him, his family and the people around him,” says Embry. “We see him go on a journey to find hope and answers for a disease that right now, we don’t know the cause of and we don’t have a cure for.
“In that journey, he does find hope, but he also finds some surprises along the way that really open his eyes to perhaps some problems with the whole multiple sclerosis ecosystem, from the charities all the way to the pharmacological industry.”
Matt Embry’s father, Ashton, is a noted researcher who devoted years of personal research to MS after Matt was diagnosed. What they discovered were questions about the effectiveness of commonly prescribed medications in halting long-term advancement of the disease.
Thus, Matt instead eventually opted for a treatment strategy that included a strict dairy-free and gluten-free diet, regular exercise and plenty of Vitamin D. Matt shares his learnings about MS via lectures and on his free, non-sponsored website mshope.com, while Ashton talks about his work at direct-ms.org.
The new documentary — almost three years in the making — is a tale that intertwines both a personal and public story. It touches on the research, while also including interviews with MS experts, patients and family members.
“I want audiences to walk away with the feeling of hope, and especially for MS patients and their families to find a new sense of empowerment; they have to go out and search for answers for themselves,” Matt Embry says.
“What we also try to do is create a film that isn’t just about multiple sclerosis. It’s about anyone who is diagnosed with any disease and the challenges they are going to face . . . to take that accountability to find answers,” he adds. “Hope is there.”
Living Proof’s exact premiere date hasn’t been set, but TIFF runs from Sept. 7 to 17. It has become one of the world’s largest public film festivals, attracting close to 500,000 attendees each year.
Organizers said Living Proof is part of the slate of compelling Canadian films being featured at this year’s festival. The Canadian lineup is one of the “most diverse” they’ve compiled, festival programmers Steve Gravestock and Magali Simard said in a news release.