Motor neurone disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a debilitating illness that afflicts hundreds of thousands of people each year, including physicist Stephen Hawking, who lived with the condition for 55 years before succumbing to it in 2018.
Currently, there is no cure, and charities say research into the disease is underfunded.
To raise awareness of the condition, Jess Journo, a 26-year-old freelance director from London, created a harrowing yet beautiful film to channel her grief after her family friend and companion, Wendy Gladwyn, died of the disease in 2018.
Journo gifted the film, titled The Dance, to U.K charity the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA), which used it to promote #GlobalMNDAwarenessDay on Sunday.
Featuring a lone dancer onstage, a narrator speaks the words of a diagnosis as she performs. In the final frames, she is seen on the floor under a spotlight, with a single tear falling down her cheek while a message on screen urges people: “Don’t ignore the problem because there isn’t yet a solution.”
“Motor neurone disease is incurable, so people perhaps feel there’s nothing they can do about it,” Journo said. “I wanted to make a film that they couldn’t ignore, that would make them sit up and take notice.”
MNDA patron and actor Eddie Redmayne, who played Hawking in the 2014 British film The Theory of Everything about the scientist’s life (and starred the film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), said the charity was close to his heart.
“This film, through the form of dance, gives you a sense of the brutality of motor neurone disease,” he said in a statement. “It portrays with huge emotion the gradual loss of control and the tragic nature of stolen dreams.”
Director: Jess Journo
Dancer: Dana Fouras
Production Company: Stink
Producers: Jess Journo & Nellie Heron-Anstead
Production co-ordinator: Hannah Bilverstone
Director of Photography: Tony Miller
Assistant Director: Jack Green
Steadicam Operator: Simon Wood
Focus Pullers: Nick Crew and Chrys Antoniou
Gaffer: Danny Hayward
Art Director: Mariya Evtimova
Stylist: Felicity Gray
Hair and Makeup Artist: Robyn Rowan
Runner: Alexandra Burns
Music Composer: Brendan Void
Edit House: Work Editorial
Editor: Jamie Hodgson
Online and VFX: Big Buoy
Post Producer: Stacia Akaba
VFX Artist: Richard ‘Stretch’ Russell
Grading Company: Company 3
Colorist: Joseph Bicknell
Audio: Wave Studios
Sound Designer: Martin Leitner