General Health

Ken Burns’ “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies”

26 March 2015

Hollywood producer Laura Ziskin (Pretty Woman, Spider-Man) had wanted to produce a documentary about cancer from the time she had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. In 2010, Ziskin contacted Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D., author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, to obtain the film rights. Simultaneously, Sharon Percy Rockefeller, president and CEO of public TV station WETA in Washington, D.C., read the book during her treatment for cancer. Shortly thereafter, Rockefeller connected with filmmaker Ken Burns, who lost his mother to cancer when he was 11. The two connected with Ziskin, and in early 2011 brought on award winning filmmaker Barak Goodman.

The result of their collaboration debuts this month. Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies tells the comprehensive story of cancer, from its first description in an ancient Egyptian scroll to the gleaming laboratories of modern research institutions. The film interweaves a sweeping historical narrative with intimate stories about contemporary patients, and an investigation into the latest scientific breakthroughs that may have brought us, at long last, within sight of lasting cures.

The three-part, six-hour documentary, broadcast March 30–April 1 at 8:00 p.m. (repeated April 1–3 at 2:00 a.m. and April 6, 13 and 20 at 1:00 a.m.) is directed by Goodman, executive produced by Burns, and is based on Mukherjee’s book. (Ziskin, who lived with cancer for seven years, died in June 2011.) The local broadcast is supported by Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine.



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