THE LAST ROAD OF THE IMMORTAL WOMAN
France - 2017 - Color - stereo sound - 10 min
Shooting format : HD
Directed by David Fathi
Original soundtrack by Frédéric D. Oberland & Pierre G. Desenfant
Piano & modular synths recorded and mixed between Magnum Diva, Paris, and Lyon
On October 4th, 1951, Henrietta Lacks passes away from a very aggressive form of cancer. Then starts her last journey, from the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore to the family cemetery in Virginia. Nobody knew at the time that another journey started for her, more precisely for her cells. A small sample of her tumor was taken without her knowledge by Dr. George Gey. He baptized these cells HeLa (as in Henrietta Lacks), and was amazed to observe that they behaved in a way never seen before. Until then human cell culture was impossible, cells would decay quickly, but hers kept growing and multiplying, again and again, infinitely. Henrietta could not know, but she had become immortal. This case is one of the most famous, and problematic, stories in modern medicine. Her family was an underprivileged African-American family, who had no idea that their mother/wife/cousin's cellular material was used all over the world by researchers in thousands of experiments, vaccine development, virus investigation, beauty product trials. Her cells were even exposed to nuclear bombs, and sent all the way up to space.
The last road of the immortal woman is between the hospital where Henrietta Lacks passed away, and the family cemetery where she lays to rest.
The last road of the immortal woman is a liminal space. Between mortality and immortality, scientifical and emotional, political and personal, metaphysical and empirical, exploitation & recognition. Through the metaphor of this last road, along landscapes, microscopic photography, data and texts, the spectator is invited to follow a path and explore the intertwined stories of segregation, mutation, contamination, appropriation & space-time.
The last road of the immortal woman is where Henrietta Lacks is no longer alive, but not yet immortal.
It's the space separating what a human life is, and can be.
A funeral march for Henrietta lacks, but a new beginning for her cells.
2017: Exhibition at Festival d'Arles, Les Rencontres de la Photographie, Croisière, Arles (FR)