What happens to a person’s identity and reason for being when the circumstances of his/her life are suddenly and radically altered? What gives someone the will or fate to survive against all odds? How does one balance the gift of survival against the suffering that can come with it? What is it that ultimately gives meaning to a life?
grace (working title) explores these and other existential and emotional questions through the personal story and perspective of Dr. Grace Dammann, a revered physician who was honored by the Dalai Lama for her extraordinary work with AIDS patients during the height of the epidemic.
On the afternoon of May 21, 2008, Grace’s life as she knew it was shattered by a catastrophic head-on collision on the Golden Gate Bridge. She broke seventeen bones, punctured her diaphragm and a lung, lacerated her liver, sustained brain bleeds, and had all of her vital organs shoved up into her chest cavity. After 48 days in a coma and multiple surgeries, doctors were amazed when Grace miraculously awoke with her cognitive abilities intact. Yet once the thrill and euphoria of survival had passed, the hard, painful work of rehabilitation began.
In grace, we see a woman fiercely determined to reinvent herself and continue to live a meaningful life in service to others, supported by an extraordinary community of friends and colleagues. The documentary provides an intimate look into Grace’s experience as she engages in the long rehab process, exploring the many layers of physical, psychological and spiritual healing that are at the heart of this wrenching and inspirational story.
About the FilmmakersHelen S. Cohen (Producer/Director) was co-director of Women's Educational Media, now GroundSpark, a nonprofit organization specializing in the production and distribution of social issue documentaries. As executive producer of GroundSpark’s acclaimed Respect for All Project, Helen spearheaded the Project’s outreach and teacher-training program, which has been recognized nationally as a model for using film to affect progressive social change. For more, see her biography at Open Studio Productions.
Mark Lipman(Producer/Director/Cinematographer/Editor) is the co-director/producer of Holding Ground, a groundbreaking film about urban revitalization that has been used by thousands of organizations and universities as a tool for training and education. In an assessment of its grant making, the Ford Foundation recognized Holding Ground as one of its most successful films of all time. For more, see his biography at New Day Films.
As Open Studio Productions, Cohen and Lipman are now making grace, their first feature-length documentary together.
San Francisco Zen Center is the film's fiscal sponsor.