That Dragon Cancer: Animae Caribe

October is Cancer Awareness Month, which is an annual global campaign to increase awareness of the disease. But that was not the reason behind featuring a special animated documentary on the subject at Animae Caribe Festival this year. It just worked out like that, with an amazing spate of coincidences and a twist of fate. ‘That Dragon Cancer’ is a computer game created by husband and wife team Ryan Green a programmer and game developer and Amy Green a writer, speaker and stand-up comedian from Colorado USA. An immersive narrative videogame that retells their son Joel Green’s 4-year fight against cancer through two hours of poetic, imaginative gameplay that explores faith, hope and love. Joel was diagnosed at age one and eventually succumbed to Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumor (AT/RT) when he was four years old.

For 18 months, award-winning filmmaker Malika Zouhali-Worrall followed Ryan and his family as he created the game, documenting their daily life for this unusual work of art. Combining footage from both Ryan’s real and animated worlds, the documentary has turned out to be a thought-provoking portrait of one family’s determination to respond to an impending tragedy through artistic expression. The film challenges the stereotypical view of video games as superficial or violent, revealing a new movement within the gaming world to create projects that document profound human experiences. The film also tells a deeply moving love story of a husband and wife helping to keep each other afloat in the midst of a familial crisis. “We wanted to transcend the simple narrative of a family dealing with cancer, and instead examine the ways we handle grief, and the beauty and hope that can be found in art,” they say. “We saw how many people were profoundly moved by Ryan’s game, and how playing it often facilitated more, rather than less, social interaction. The fact that a video game was capable of awakening this sort of empathy astounded us, and we soon realized that Ryan isn’t only a developer, he’s also an artist — and programming is his paintbrush.” Filmmaker Magazine named Malika as one of 25 New Faces of Independent Film.

The Animae Caribe screening will be hosted by the imitable Keisha Butcher, a cancer survivor herself. For her this is a unique way for the issue to be addressed and made more accessible to the masses, especially here in Trinidad and the Caribbean as some consider this a taboo subject. “Cancer awareness’ means that we are being screened early, regularly and living healthy…until then we are not yet aware,” she says. Patrons can sample the game after the screening of the animated documentary which will be followed by Q&A with the director Malika Zouhali-Worrall at the UTT Academy for the Performing Arts on Wednesday 26th from 7pm.  For more information please check the website www.animaecaribe.com

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