My grandpa is a sweet and charming person who deeply cares about everyone in his life. We spent many days together while I was growing up, playing games and laughing aloud. That was, until six years ago, when he suffered a serious stroke and was left unable to move in any way. Although I felt grateful to have my grandpa still with us, I soon realized that he was living his life unable to express emotion.
One day, while visiting home from college, I lay down next to my grandpa and tried to see from his perspective. Every day for six years, he had stared through the steel bars of this window. Looking through those same bars, I asked myself: Were we, his family, being selfish? Would he choose to rest peacefully and indefinitely, if given the option?
This film, CELLO, was born.
Aware that ALS will destroy his ability to express himself through his cello and to communicate with his family, my character Ansel must make the hardest of decisions. How ought he leave this earth? Although “Death With Dignity” is still a controversial topic, I believe that how we treat those who are suffering reflects who we are as a society, and therefore we must not ignore this important issue.
It was my intention through this film to show how a terminally ill person has rights, too. And to encourage others to take action, so that more patients will have a choice.
I gave a voice to my film through the eyes of a little girl, played by the incredible Samantha Desman, who watched her grandfather, played by Lynn Harrell, battle ALS, a crippling disease. Our film asks the heartbreaking question: should people have the right to choose when to exit — to eliminate prolonged suffering with compassion and retain personal dignity —on one’s own terms?