Dying to Live is the new documentary by the filmmaker who brought you Frackman. In Dying to Live Todd follows the lives of everyday Australians awaiting organ donation. His goal was to raise awareness of the need to get on the donor register as Australia is well behind other western countries in tissue donor rates, which creates immense suffering for those requiring organ donation.
For Todd it all started with an article he saw about Allan Turner, who had just lost his daughter Zaidee.
‘She had a brain aneurysm and they previously had decided as a family to go on the donor list. At the time they had thought it would be them – not their daughter. I had daughter turn eight about the same time so I got quite emotionally moved by the story. In the article Allan spoke about how 86 per cent of Australians said they would donate but only 1,400 are actually on the registry.’
Many people aren’t aware that South Australia is the only state where you can still request organ donation on your driver licence. In all the other states you have to go to a centralised electronic database to register.
‘Part of our campaign is to encourage people to get on the register,’ says Richard. ‘We direct people through our website – ours is easy: dyingtolive.com.au. Follow the links and you can register to donate.’
Richard Todd spent 2–3 years making Dying To Live, where he tracked the lives of people waiting for donation.
‘I guess the biggest effect you see is that it’s a waiting game. It’s the effect that has on the people in the story and on families and close friends. It’s the part of the story I didn’t expect – it’s a ticking time bomb scenario. You don’t know if you are going to get it or if it’s going to be successful; the family is on tenterhooks waiting for that phone call.
‘People are waiting for the phone to ring. They could already be on the phone, or have run out of battery, so there has to be a few other people who are on 24/7 alert. You have to move as quickly as you can. When Holly got her lung transplant she was already in hospital so they just came in and told her and transferred her to a transplant hospital.’
Fortunately for the recipients, and for Richard Todd as a documentary maker, those calls did come in making the film – although that’s certainly not something that could ever have been planned.
‘I thought we’d need 10 characters to get the five or six we followed,’ says Richard. ‘But we ended up with these star characters. Allan often says Zaidee was pulling the strings. We start the story with an animation of what happened to Zaidee that evening when she dies. The family are really honoured to have her story told.’
This is a powerful film telling very human stories of life and death. It’s definitely bring a tissue. ‘There were several points where people cried at our screening at the Sydney Film Festival,’ says Todd. ‘Five of the cast were there. They had a standing ovation that went on for a ridiculously long time.’
Dying to Live screens at the Byron Film Festival at the Byron Theatre on Sunday 21 October at 2pm.
Tix $15 at bbff.com.au