FADE TO BLACK
Peter Short was the CEO of Shell Coles Express in Australia. On his 57th birthday he was diagnosed with terminal oesophageal cancer and told he had less than nine months to live. After talking himself out of a violent suicide, Peter decided to take matters into his own hands by trying to source the lethal and illegal drug Nembutal. Peter passed away in December 2014, outliving doctor's predictions by nearly three months. Fade to Black explores the complexity of 'voluntary assisted dying' from both advocates and opponents of the issue through in-depth interviews with his wife Elizabeth, son Mitchll and with high profile Australians including Andrew Denton, Senator Richard Di Natale, Philip Nitschke, Dr. Rodney Syme and others.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It's not often we see a man dying of cancer buying himself a new Porsche - but perhaps we should. Peter Short was not short of chutzpah. His cancer didn't care. This was a piece of personal bravado. Short went on to work with Richard Di Natale to introduce assisted dying legislation in Australia (2014). "I want to chose to have a magnificent ending to my life because I've had a magnificent life," Short says in a radio interview at the start of that campaign.
And his interactions with politicians on the matter convinced him that apart from Di Natali, the Chief Executive of Shell Coles Express wouldn't hire a single politician to work for him. "You look at the track records of people in politics in terms of their leadership skills, their business skills, their people skills ... it's a miasma of fairly unimpressive stuff."
Some 100 million people in three continents are able to 'die with dignity', says Andrew Denton. As ex-DPP Nicholas Cowdery AM points out, suicide is legal in Australia, but assisted suicide is a serious crime with a 10 year jail penalty.
I'd have liked to see a few more date stamps in the doco and a few more info captions on people (especially at the beginning, where two illustrative but distracting interviews not to do with Peter Short), but otherwise the film is a unique and worthwhile record of a man's journey towards his own death (on December 12, 2014) while campaigning to do it himself. In the process, filmmaker Jeremy Ervine takes his camera to all those with differing viewpoints, exposing the ever-troubling and thought provoking conflicts in the debate. It is an informative, sensitive and moving film.
Those like Short who want laws to allow assisted suicide are not calling for it to be compulsory, but Short makes his case with passion that he wants the choice. I am always reminded of the film, The Sea Inside (2004), the true story of Spanish fisherman, Ramon Sampedro (Javier Bardem), who is left a quadriplegic after a swimming accident. Distressed about the loss of dignity and functionality, he wants to be able to end his life, but has to fight a 30 year campaign in favour of euthanasia. "Life is a right, not an obligation," he tells anyone who listens.
NOTE: the filmmakers say it was "made possible by the one thousand people who contributed through Indigogo to make it the most successful crowdfunded Australian documentary" - and it lists them all in the end credits.
Email this article
FADE TO BLACK (tba)
CAST: Documentary featuring Peter Short
PRODUCER: Jeremy Ervine
DIRECTOR: Jeremy Ervine
SCRIPT: David Campbell, Jeremy Ervine
EDITOR: Eastwood Allen
MUSIC: Mihali Paleologou
RUNNING TIME: 77 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Demand.film
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: From August 1, 2017. For session times go to www.demand.film - if you cant find a location near you, you can host your own screening and sell tickets via your social media channels to your friends and colleagues.