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The Independent Critic

Diane Ryan, R.N., Gilbert Oakley, R.N., Berthold Cohen, Alena Sydnor
Carolyn Jones
78 Mins.

 "Defining Hope" has U.S. Premiere at 2017 Heartland Film Fest 

An official selection of the 2017 Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis, Carolyn Jones's moving and inspirational feature doc Defining Hope weaves together stories of patients with life-threatening illnesses with the experiences of the nurses who guide them as they are empowered to make choices about how they want to live, how much medical technology they choose to accept, what they hope for, and how that hope evolves as their life is threatened. 

The film is centered around the central story of Diane, a nurse caring for end-stage cancer patients who must brace herself when she receives her own complex diagnosis. It is Diane's story, in essence, that serves as the bridge to the film's other stories including that of 23-year-old Alena, who understands a high-risk brain surgery that threatens to strip away her short-term memory, and that of 95-year-old Berthold, living with his elderly wife as she struggles to honor his expressed wish to die peacefully in his home. 

Defining Hope is having its U.S. Premiere at Heartland, an ideal location for a film that manages to be a feel good and inspirational film despite the challenging nature of its subject matter. Brimming with optimism, Defining Hope seems to find its hope in allowing patients and their families to further define their last days in a way that is meaningful to them. 

Defining Hope was borne out of four years of research over 150 interviews conducted with nurses and healthcare professionals for both "The American Nurse Project" and the "Dying in America" webiste. Out of these interviews, the team behind Defining Hope gained insight into how deeply vital it is to consider "what’s most important in life, to think about our own personal definitions of “quality of life,” and to make time to discuss our values and wishes with our loved ones."

While Defining Hope is the kind of feature doc that tends to show up at least once a year during the Heartland Film Festival, it's also the kind of feature doc that leaves audiences talking and deeply appreciative of its compassionate, life-affirming and spirited messages. 

For more information on Defining Hope, visit the film's website linked to in the credits to the left of this review. 

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic