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‘Introducing Selma Blair’ (SXSW review)

Defined by the Mayo Clinic, Multiple sclerosis (MS) is, “a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system).”

With no cure, symptoms include numbness or weakness in the extremities, tremors, vision issues, fatigue, slurred speech, and tingling or pain throughout the body.

Which brings us to Introducing Selma Blair, a documentary from filmmaker Rachel Fleit, an intensely moving portrait of the actress as she navigates her chronic illness.

In 2018, Selma Blair, revealed that she was diagnosed with MS; that in itself a small victory that the side effects that she had dealt with for the prior decade were real and not imagined. In front of the cameras, she used a cane, but other than that, there weren’t many signs of her suffering.

Blair as an actress and celebrity has never been warm and fuzzy, rather sharp, blunt and glib. She’s dealing with her own familial baggage while she often fights to maintain a sense of control and positivity around her young son, Arthur.

Unfortunately, as seen in the film, control is something that Blair has very little of.

Her struggles to maintain both her health and her dignity are often futile as we watch her try to speak, or crawl up the stairs to get to her bedroom. In the sanctity of her Studio City home, Blair is safe from the overtaxing stimulus that normal society provides and the chronic pain that she endures.

The second half of the film deals with Blair’s journey toward healing, partaking in an isolating and painful stem cell transplant she undergoes over several weeks in a Chicago hospital. Watching her confront her mortality, as well as what will become of Arthur if she dies, is both poignant and heartbreaking.

The transplant although successful, doesn’t necessarily provide a happy ending. But that’s not the point. There are certain things in life that you have no control over. Rachel Fleit has put together a film that is not only a testament to Blair’s strength, but also and more importantly, her optimism in the face of insurmountable challenges.

******
Produced by Mickey Liddell,
Pete Shilaimon, Troy Nankin,
Directed by Rachel Fleit
Featuring Selma Blair

 

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