Zaritsky making Super Channel doc about eccentrics

Oscar-winning director John Zaritsky (pictured) is to direct a doc about eccentrics for Canada's Super Channel, and is working on another film about birth defect victims of Thalidomide.
September 30, 2013

Oscar-winning director John Zaritsky is to direct a documentary about eccentrics for Canada’s Super Channel.

Eccentrics, from indie producer Real to Reel Productions, has also been sold to the Documentary Channel as a second window. The film received CAD$273,448 inĀ financing from the Canada Media Fund, with an extra $37,500 for digital media. Producers say the film is about “people who dance to the beat of their own drum.”

The documentary will cover a range of people who stand out for the lifestyles they have chosen, including Daniel Suelo, who lives with no cash in caves in Utah by harvesting wild foods.

“He’s never earned a cent and spent a cent since. He lives off of what he can find in the outdoors, will occasionally work, but only to be fed,” said Bill Spahic (Animism: People Who Love Objects), who runs Real to Reel Productions with partner Anne Pick.

Zaritsky won an Academy Award in 1982 for his documentary Just Another Missing Kid. His most recent doc is Do You Really Want to Know?, about predictive genetic testing. Zaritsky, Pick and Spahic have known one another since their early years at the CBC.

The trio are also collaborating on a second documentary by Zaritsky about Thalidomide, the severe birth defect drug.

Zaritsky did two earlier docs in 1989 and 1999 about victims of Thalidomide, and has chosen to do a follow-up film because the people he followed over the years are now dealing with the challenge of ageing as parents die and their own health suffers.

In addition, the completion of a landmark class action court case in Australia against the distributor of Thalidomide has revealed a wealth of historical documents formerly held under lock and key in Germany.

Saphic said the new documentation reveals the manufacturer of Thalidomide, Grunenthal, knew of links between the drug and adverse health effects.

Zaritsky’s doc will also probe links between Grunenthal and the German Nazis, and Thalidomide being developed during the Second World War and tested in a concentration camp.

“It [Grunenthal] was an old company and owned by a Nazi, and the drug was created by a doctor practicing in a concentration camp. And there was a push to get the pill out there for financial reasons,” Saphic explained.

Anne Pick said the Zaritsky doc will be an antidote to those who believe Thalidomide, which is now being used to treat AIDS patients, is a thing of the past as its birth defect victims remain very much alive and ageing.

“It’s starting to pop up again. It’s not over. This subject, we have to bring it to light,” she said.

Real to Reel Productions’ Animism: People Who Love Objects on the weekend kicked off Global TV’s docu-series strand Obsessions.

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