Redefining the traditional scope of documentary film in an electronic age, 65_RedRoses leaves viewers with a new appreciation of life and the digital world. This personal and touching journey takes an unflinching look into the lives of Eva Markvoort and her two online friends who are all battling cystic fibrosis. Unable to meet in person because of the spread of infections and super bugs, the girls have become each other’s lifelines through the Internet, providing unconditional love, support and understanding long after visiting hours are over.
Philip Lyall and Nimisha Mukerji, the two young filmmakers & collaborators behind 65_RedRoses, tell the story of how it came to be.
The actual documentary idea came in May 2007 when both of us went to visit our friend in the hospital, Eva Markvoort, who had a fatal genetic disease called Cystic Fibrosis. When we met with Eva, she had recently been told by doctors that she had less than two years to live if she did not get a transplant. From the outside she was trying to look like a normal 23-year old, but on the inside her body was totally shutting down. We were so captivated by Eva’s personality and her will to live that we decided to begin following her story as she went through the process of transplant. Nothing could have prepared us for the journey we were about to take.
In our province, British Columbia, Canada, we have the lowest donor rate in the country, so we had to prepare ourselves for the worst possible outcome: that Eva could die on the wait list. Not knowing when Eva’s pager might go off for transplant, we moved full speed ahead with production. We began shooting without funding. Our Director of Photography, Mike Rae, volunteered his camera and services so that we did not miss any important moments. Eva’s family as well as her entire medical team, headed by transplant surgeon Dr. John Yee, gave us their full support even in the very early stages of the project’s development. They guaranteed us unlimited access to the hospitals and surgery rooms, should Eva get the call.
As we began to learn more about Eva’s situation, she told us that she was not permitted to be around other Cystic Fibrosis patients due to the threat of spreading infection. If she were to catch a super bug or virus from another CF patient, it could jeopardize her chances for transplant completely. We couldn’t believe that she was going through the most important time of her life and she wasn’t able to talk to anyone else with her illness. She told us how through the internet she had been able to form friendships with two other young women battling the disease. We realized that this was not simply a film about a sick girl with CF; this was also a story about the unlikely friendship between Eva and her online friends Meg and Kina, as they helped each other through some of the most difficult moments of their lives.
Our greatest hope for this documentary is that when people watch it, they feel compelled to register to be an organ donor. We have witnessed first hand the difference it can make in a life. Eva would not be here if it wasn’t for her donor, and we are grateful every day that she got the second chance at life she deserved.
Eva Markvoort was a face painter, a coffee drinker, a fast talker and a loyal friend. She was tall with striking features and you always knew if she was feeling good, because she would stop everything to dye her hair bright red and make sure you were having just as much fun.
She loved taking photos and would turn hospital rooms into studio spaces, essentially documenting her life’s journey and surrounded herself with images of the people she shared it with.
She was interested in people and their experiences. In her art she focused on capturing the personal heartaches as well as simple, unexpected joys of life. The photos that she took of herself showed the light and dark side of living with Cystic Fibrosis (CF), which she faithfully posted on her blog in an attempt to reach out and connect with the unseen world around her.
Eva was many things in her short life, but perhaps most importantly she was born in the age of the internet which enabled her to blog from wherever she was. Her online journal allowed her to share her voice and speak her mind without censorship. In reality she was a celebrated writer without ever publishing a book. She was a performer without ever acting in a film. She was an artist without fully realizing the extent of the mark she was leaving behind.
Eva judged a successful day by how much love she was able to give back. It was always about what she could do, never about how much she couldn’t. While Eva lived with CF, she didn’t fight against it. She understood that this genetic disease was a part of who she was, and just like the color of her eyes CF was embraced as a part of her identity. But it didn’t define her, Eva made sure of that.
So even though she was really sick, she concealed the true extent of her suffering from those around her because she never wanted to be perceived as a sick girl first. She wanted to be Eva. Her online journal, and later our film, became an outlet to unleash both sides of herself.
CF effects the lungs and the result is that patients usually don’t reach their 40s. Knowing her life would be cut short Eva decided to live in the moment. Since she couldn’t take time for granted she made it her best friend. She crammed 100 years of living into 25.
She embraced transplant because it was her best shot for a longer life and she was willing to risk everything to undergo a very painful and dangerous surgery, because she wanted to experience something that we all take for granted. The most basic human experience that she was never able to do. She wanted to take a full, deep breath.
Receiving new lungs wasn’t ever going to cure her CF, but it could give her a second chance at life. The difference between Eva before and after transplant shocked all of us who knew her. For the first time as an adult she could run, she could sing, she could dance.
As she said herself, she had her “life back.” She was the same uninhibited Eva, but this time she had the energy to fully engage and enjoy every experience she encountered. She never put things off for later, because in the back of her mind she knew she was living on borrowed time.
While we directed 65_RedRoses, Eva was always the director of her life. This film is the result of countless hours of tiring work on her part to make sure that the film was the best that it could be; that it told the truth, and that it reflected who Eva really was.
It’s real, it’s full of love, and it’s her story. Seen through our camera’s lens this is Eva’s journey to create awareness for organ donation and Cystic Fibrosis.
If Eva was here she’d be writing this herself and she’d probably end by reminding all her readers out there to love. Love those around you, love the people you have yet to meet, and most importantly love yourselves. Just love,love,love.
By 65_RedRoses Filmmaker Nimisha Mukerji