EXCLUSIVE: Marking the first collaboration between the Tribeca Film Festival and a health organization, a new John Hillcoat– directed short Corazon , fully financed by the Montefiore Health System , has its World Premiere Friday at the fest where it is a finalist in the Tribeca X section which is a juried award for storytelling supported by a brand recognizing the intersection of advertising and entertainment. Attracting top talent like director Hillcoat, Oscar nominated actor Demian Bechir and Blade Runner 2049s Ana de Armas, cinematographer Bradford Young (Selma) , and Oscar winning composer Atticus Ross (The Social Network), the film which promotes organ donation as part of its plot hits right in the heart of Aprils official National Donate Life Month and the Tribeca fest which opens tonight and runs through April 29th.
Based on a real life doctor patient story this was the one unanimously chosen by the production team from the three that Montefiore presented. It depicts the story of
Elena Ramirez (de Armas), a young Dominican woman who sells her body in the sex tourism industry in order to make a living and provide for her family, only to find
that her body is failing her after being given just months to live due to a bad heart. She meets the U.S. cardiologist Dr. Mario Garcia (Bichir) who offers her the opportunity of a mechanical heart through a surgery to be performed at Montefiore in the Bronx. She sets out on a potential life saving journey from Santo Domingo to NYC , overcoming many challenges along the way.
These “mechanical hearts” are known as LVAD (left ventricular assist device) , and are referred to as implants, not transplants. In the best scenario they can give up to 10 years + for a patient but the average is 3 to 5 years as the device is regarded as temporary until the patient qualifies for a heart transplant. Ramirez is about two years into the process now but this 43 minute film will certainly bring awareness of her plight, as well as that of many others. 115,000 people in the U.S. are currently awaiting a life saving organ donation now, and the stats say 22 die each day after time runs out.
Hillcoat , whose feature films include The Road and The Proposition, told me over the phone that he was attracted to this story because there was a female character at its center, one from the lower echelon of society in another country who experiences this incredible event . With Mexicos Bichir , and Spains de Armas on board he also felt it had much to say about the current hot button subject of immigrants. “There was something in this story that really struck a chord. The kind of compassion and humanity and empathy was really what attracted all of us, ” he said. “You know especially in these sorts of times, with the healthcare system and immigration and all these problems. Its pretty dark times. The fact that we were able to kind of tackle this story together as a joint effort and collaboration made it really seal the fate of it all in a positive way.” He had nothing but praise for the doctors at Montefiore who perform these feats , often pro bono, and witnessed the surgery himself to prep for the film.
Hillcoat said the production was ambitious to say the least, especially considering he had to do it in half the time he had for a recent episode of the Netflix anthology series, Black Mirror. Still he and his talented crew persevered. “It was really about the story and doing justice to the story that really kind of spiked our interest and so we got there,” he said. After its Tribeca premiere the film will be available online at CorazonFilm.com starting April 23rd, but they are also hoping to take it to a larger platform (Netflix?) and other festivals going forward. Hillcoat expects Elena to be at Tribeca and says the woman, now in her 30s , did come to the set and met the actress playing her. “That was a very moving experience. They were both in tears in each others arms. She is now , I believe , in the Bronx and still in New York hoping to get on the donor list and get a new heart.”
Hopefully in this case a movie at the Tribeca Film Festival can make a difference.
Check out the trailer premiere by clicking the link above.