[ExI] LA Times: 'Hope' makes a case for stem cell research

PJ Manney pjmanney at gmail.com
Wed May 21 23:48:47 UTC 2008

Talk about putting your money where your mouth and hopes are.  While I
don't hold much hope personally for a theatrical release for this film
(meaning it shows in movie theaters), maybe there will be a
TV/Internet channel that would pick it up...

Fingers crossed.



>From the Los Angeles Times
'Hope' makes a case for stem cell research
A Kansas physician becomes a filmmaker to make a case for stem cell research.
By John Horn
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

May 20, 2008

CANNES, France -- The entertainment industry attracts all sorts of
unusual investors, but the people behind a new movie premiering at the
Cannes Film Festival couldn't be further removed from the Hollywood
scene: They are Kansas doctors eager to tell a story about stem cell

Their fictional film, "Hope," is making its world premiere in the
sales market in Cannes (meaning it is not showing in public and press
screenings), and when the lead physician behind the film says that
lives are at stake, it's not typical show business melodrama.

"America and the world have lost eight years of important research,"
says Dr. Shelley Chawla, a Topeka neurologist who was partly motivated
to make the film after watching his Alzheimer's and Parkinson's
patients suffer from the devastating diseases. "I want to help my
patients," the doctor says.

With the help of three other Kansas doctors and a local businessman,
Chawla, who co-wrote the film and was a producer, put together nearly
$500,000 to make "Hope." None of the actors is recognizable, and the
production quality is at best modest, although the movie
(www.themoviehope.com) did film some scenes in New Delhi.

As Chawla sees it, though, the film is not intended to be slick
entertainment; it's intended to push people into action. "The point
was to give the issue a personal perspective," he says.

Chawla first worked out the plot of "Hope" in a self-published 2007
novel, "Hope . . . in vitro." The movie follows the book's basic
story: Josh, the son of a conservative senator, is paralyzed in an
automobile accident, and his girlfriend, Courtney, starts researching
possible treatments involving embryonic stem cell research.

The central drama of "Hope" is whether Josh's father will continue to
oppose stem cell research or let his son undergo an experimental
procedure in India, which the movie shows as being far ahead of
America in creating medical treatments from research in that area.

"Isn't an embryo a human being?" Josh asks his physician at one point.
"We all have to decide for ourselves," the doctor replies.

Chawla (who plays a doctor in the film) has definitely made up his
mind, and he wants people who see the movie and read his book to look
at the science, not the talking heads.

"I am not a political person," he says. "The goal was for people to
think for themselves."

Chawla, 43, who was born in India and went to medical school in
Chicago, is confident that if the debate turns in favor of stem cell
trials, people with spinal cord injuries and degenerative diseases
including arthritis, osteoporosis and diabetes soon could see
promising new treatments.

He realizes the odds of his sales agent getting a theatrical release
for "Hope" are slim, but he believes his movie could be a good pick
for cable TV. And once people see the movie, Chawla says, the
conversation about stem cell research might evolve more quickly.

"One religion's perspective," he says, "should not hold everybody else
back. The Jehovah's Witnesses don't take blood transfusions, but they
don't force everybody else into the same position."

john.horn at latimes.com

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