A Toronto filmmaker who lost her father to mesothelioma has taken to her camera to tell the story of how the deadly cancer has affected her family, as well as the continued repercussions caused by Canada’s asbestos mining and exporting industries.
Kathleen Mullen – who also serves as the director of programming for Planet in Focus, a Canada-based environmental film production company – will premiere “Breathtaking” later this week at a benefit screening in Toronto, her hometown. The 43-minute film was inspired by Mullen’s father, Richard, who passed away in 2003 from mesothelioma that was caused by his exposure to asbestos while working as an engineer.
Using clips of her father’s legal testimony that he gave following his mesothelioma diagnosis, as well as family videos and pictures, Mullen documents the pain that her family faced during her father’s illness. She also goes to great lengths to tell the story of how he was exposed to the asbestos that caused him to get sick before expanding to a larger discussion regarding Canada’s role in the global asbestos market.
“In short ‘Breathtaking’ is a personal investigation into the landscape of asbestos use today, an autobiographical film, a testimonial of my family’s experience and a strategy for social awareness and change,” Mullen said in a blog post describing the film. “’Breathtaking’ is at its heart a documentary that searches for answers to both a personal and public question.”
Along with her sister, Mullen travels to Quebec (where a majority of asbestos from Canada is mined) as well as India and Detroit (two destinations for exported Canadian asbestos) to help paint “a global, yet still personal picture of the many lives affected by the continued use of asbestos.”.
“I wanted to trace the path that asbestos takes. I went to Québec because that’s where we mine it. I decided to go to India because I was interested in what was happening and I had already made a lot of connections there,” she told the Toronto Star. “… I hope people are enjoying it as a story and as a film and are getting something from it. But then I hope they’re also thinking of the bigger picture.”
To learn more about the film, visit www.planetinfocus.org.