In 1997, Jenifer Estess was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Joseph Lovett's moving film charts Jenifer's physical deterioration, but also follows the progress she and her two sisters make in understanding and combating this devastating disease. One of the things they learn early on is that little is known about ALS or its causes, and that no one is close to finding a cure. Jenifer and her sisters do not give up hope; instead they found Project ALS, which thanks to their fundraising prowess raises $17 million to help in the search for a cure. (Jenifer had founded Naked Angels, a theater group that counted Marisa Tomei and Matthew Broderick among its founding members; it is through her connections, and those of her sisters and friends, that she was able to pull off such an amazing feat.) Jenifer becomes a spokesperson for stem cell research and other means of finding a cure for ALS, along with related diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Together, the sisters seem able to move mountains, and although Jenifer died in 2003, her dedication to eradicating ALS has gotten us much closer to finding a cure. Jenifer Estess' memoir of her struggle with ALS and on behalf of a cure will be published later this year.
Joseph Lovett has produced and directed independent feature and short films as well as many films for television. His work has focused on social issues and health topics since 1989, including the documentary memoir The Accident in 1999 and last year's State of Denial, a feature documentary about the politics of AIDS in South Africa. He has been presented with the AIDS Leadership Award and the Peabody, among others. Lovett has taught at the New School for Social Research, lectured and published at the Kinsey Institute and is a clinical associate professor at the State University of New York's Health Science Center at Brooklyn.