Eva Markvoort at her laptop in 65_RedRoses
I don’t remember why I originally saw the documentary. Maybe I stumbled across it on Newsworld while looking for something to watch. Maybe someone recommended it on Facebook or Twitter and I watched it online.
It’s called 65_RedRoses, and it’s a documentary about a young Vancouverite named Eva Markvoort. She has cystic fibrosis, a disease that affects the lungs and can stop people from being able to breathe. The documentary, shot by a friend and his film-school partner, chronicles her life as she waits for – and eventually gets – a lung transplant.
Markvoort is an ideal candidate, not only because she’s young, pretty and well-spoken, but because she’s very open. She keeps a blog where she posts thoughts and pictures, and the documentary references and quotes from a bunch of blog posts. Maybe that’s part of the reason it appealed to me.
The key moment in the film comes just after the 20-minute mark, during what seems to be a very boring segment with bad audio in which Eva and her friends head out to the car. Suddenly, there’s a beeping sound, barely discernible on the documentary’s audio track, and Eva goes into shock. Her pager, whose sole function is to alert her when a donor has been found for transplant, is going off. After nine months of keeping this little brick attached to her, nine months of waiting, suddenly she’s getting the call. (It’s interesting to me to go through this blog and see the individual posts referenced – it makes it seem more real somehow.)
What follows is an emotional few minutes in which she’s so nervous she can’t properly dial a phone. Even the filmmakers are nervous. This event wasn’t staged, there was no advance notice. They’d just been following her for so long, capturing so much footage, and suddenly, in October 2007, they hit the jackpot.
I can only admire this from a strictly journalistic perspective. It’s like being at the scene of a car crash with a camera rolling. They didn’t call her after the fact and ask her what it was like. They didn’t re-enact the scene with actors. They were there, and we saw her face while it happened.
It was this shaky, low-audio footage that got the CBC on board to produce this documentary, according to an article in Eye Weekly. It’s easy to understand why. You don’t see such sudden, raw, real emotion very often. The funding led to better production values, including some computer-generated title sequences that unfortunately are a bit lame.
The documentary is a roller-coaster for Eva, her parents and friends – and, naturally, the viewer. She gets better, she gets worse, she gets a transplant, she gets better, she gets worse, she gets better again.
The documentary ends on a happy note. After surviving an early post-transplant scare, Eva recovers and is discharged from the hospital. Slowly, her breathing improves and she’s healthy again.
Another poignant moment happens when Eva participates in a dragon boat race, something she couldn’t do before the transplant. It’s at that point she meets one of her best friends, Kina, who lives in Pennsylvania and also has CF. People with CF aren’t allowed to interact with each other because of the risk of spreading superbugs, as we learn in the documentary. But with the transplant, that’s no longer a worry. Eva loses her composure as she runs to her friend, and before long everyone’s in tears.
It’s 2009, and Eva’s doing great. This 2008 year-in-review post on her blog gives a good idea of what her new life is like (ironically, her posting frequency dropped noticeably as she went out and enjoyed herself). The documentary ends with a happy Eva smiling, optimistic and excited about her future.
Except, not. After the fade to black, text comes on the screen explaining that a few weeks before the documentary aired in November 2009, Eva was back in hospital, suffering from chronic rejection. She was still posting, still doing her best to promote this documentary that stars her, particularly now that it’s gotten this exposure.
Eva Markvoort died last weekend. She was 25. The news came via a brief posting on her blog, a post that now has more than 1,600 comments.
CBC decided to re-air the documentary yesterday on CBC News Network. Kina, Eva’s friend, is trying to get it to air in the United States.
Canadians can watch 65_RedRoses free on the CBC website.