Directed By Jan Krawitz
More than 98,000 people in the United States are waiting for a new kidney. Tragically, one-third of them will die before a kidney from a deceased donor becomes available. Altruistic organ donation is the new frontier that could significantly increase the supply of organs but many people are discomfited by the idea. Doctors, social workers, ethicists, and policy makers are wary of the implications. In the United States, the buying and selling of organs is illegal yet many transplant centers are reluctant to accept kidneys from an altruistic donor like Ellie. Perfect Strangers exposes thorny philosophical questions about acts of compassion, and ultimately, who deserves a second chance at life and at what cost? The film dispels stereotypes and raises awareness of the physical and emotional terrain of organ donation through an intimate portrayal of the process.
Perfect Strangers is ultimately a study of the human condition, specifically focused on what motivates an individual towards an act of compassion and the ramifications when this ideal is translated into action. The longitudinal approach to the narrative accommodates the unpredictability of the outcome. Organ donation from a deceased donor is held in high regard and it is easy to put a “pink dot” on one’s driver’s license. But altruistic organ donation, situated on the outer edge of the “giving” continuum, can elicit suspicion and hostility. Why do we feel threatened by the idea of such an extreme gift of oneself? Why do we assume an ulterior motive lies behind this magnanimous act?
THE FILMMAKER: Jan Krawitz has been independently producing documentary films for 35 years. Her work has been exhibited at film festivals in the United States and abroad, including Sundance, the New York Film Festival, Visions du Réel, Edinburgh, SilverDocs, London, Sydney, Full Frame, South by Southwest and the Flaherty Film Seminar. Her 2004 film, Big Enough, was broadcast on the national PBS series P.O.V. and internationally in eighteen countries. Her documentaries, Mirror Mirror, In Harm’s Way, Little People, and Drive-in Blues, were all broadcast on national PBS. Krawitz’s short film Styx is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. Little People was nominated for a national Emmy Award and was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered. Krawitz has had one-woman retrospectives of her films at venues including the Portland Art Museum, Hood Museum of Art, Rice Media Center, the Austin Film Society, and the Ann Arbor Film Festival. In 2011, she was awarded an artist’s residency at Yaddo. Krawitz is a Professor at Stanford University where she teaches in the M.F.A. Program in Documentary Film and Video.