21 January 2011. Invite your friends over, gather loved ones, serve some good munchies, and settle in for a night of TV well worth watching. Starting next Saturday, 29 January 2011, CNN will air a documentary film by Felipe Barral. It will focus the attention of viewers around the globe on the terrible scourge that is familial Alzheimer’s disease. But more than that, it also showcases a wave of international momentum that is building among inspiring families, committed doctors, scientists—and hopefully industry and regulators—to stop the disease with prevention and therapeutic trials.
Barral, an artist and senior producer at the CNNI/E Special projects unit, last August and September traveled to Colombia and across the U.S. to document the plight of families with autosomal-dominant AD. He also features the work of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative driven by Eric Reiman, Pierre Tariot, Jessica Langbaum, at the Banner Alzheimer’s Center in Phoenix, Arizona, and Kenneth Kosik at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The film features extensive footage of members of the Colombian families carrying the presenilin-1 Paisa mutation and of Francisco Lopera, the neurologist who has cared for them for decades and has built a research team and a robust body of data to support prevention trials now.
Among others, Barral also filmed members of the Noonan family, who have done much to publicize the need for more research. In doing so, he caught the last contribution to this awareness-raising effort by Butch Noonan, the family's most recent loved one to pass away (see also ARF London story). Some of the Noonans participate in the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network (DIAN), also an ongoing international effort to test drug candidates in autosomal-dominant families. Butch passed away on 4 November 2010. You can appreciate his last gift to the family’s cause when he participates in this film near the end of his life.
“The intimacy we have with the families is incredible. I needed to feel and fear the disease. I did, and there were moments when all of us cried including me and my cameraman,” Barral told ARF. “We capture what it is like to have this type of AD. We also show the urgency and the commitment on the part of the researchers and the families.”
To allow the reality of life with the disease to come across as authentically as possible, Barral said he edited the footage into a documentary film that uses fewer cuts and longer shots than the fast-paced action docudramas viewers have gotten used to these days. It is great news to the field that this topic has caught the eye of CNN and will be before a world audience soon.
Barral’s film shows that this is a worldwide disease. Here are the show times Alzforum knows as of today. Showtimes for CNN U.S. have not yet been set. CNN International: Saturday, 1/29 and 2/12 at 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. EST; Sunday, 1/30 and 2/13 at 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. EST. In Spanish on CNN en Espanol: Saturday, 1/29 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. EST; Sunday, 1/30 at 3 a.m., 1 p.m., and 7 p.m.; Wednesday, 2/2 at 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. EST. View the film’s trailer at the CNN website.—Gabrielle Strobel.