With boxes of vitamins and supplements and a lot of chocolate biscuits, director Sue Bourne and her film crew set off in a van around the country to film A Time To Live. The latest documentary from the award-winning film maker, is a series of interviews with people diagnosed with a terminal illness. After the screening last week, Bourne was in conversation – and when asked why she’d picked this theme, stated, ‘I’m not maudlin, I’m not interested in death, in particular. We began filming last year when lots of famous people died – David Bowie, Alan Rickman – and so I thought it’s time. Also I’ve had cancer myself, I’ve had a brush with mortality and you don’t know what’s around the corner. It’s important to make the most of your time. Squeeze the pips out of life’
A Time to Live is trademark Sue Bourne. The director of Fabulous Fashionistas and The Age of Loneliness has a knack for brutal honesty and an ability to encourage her subjects to open up and disclose things in interviews that they probably wouldn’t say in real life. I seriously wish I had Bourne’s interview skills. Obviously, given the subject matter, A Time to Live is a tearjerker but because the emphasis of the film is ‘living not dying’ and the people filmed have changed their lives, it’s uplifting, too. From Lisa, 50, who has breast cancer and would rather ‘spend time laughing and having a good time admiring my wonderful breasts that don’t move when I take my bra off,’ to 30-year-old Fi who says, ‘I used to worry about what people thought of me and now I don’t give a fuck.’ Then there’s Nigel (in the photograph below) who laughs at himself and declares, ‘People phone and there’s a pause and you can tell their thinking “he’s still alive!” You get sympathy fatigue setting in.’ And Annabel, 54 who emboldened by her diagnosis made a bucket list including travelling the world, learning to paint and, first things first, leaving her husband.
An at the end of the film, the final credits don’t disclose which of the 12 interviewees is still living, ‘I made the choice not to tell who was still alive or dead,’ Bourne admits, ‘If we’d said that at the end, then that’s all you would remember. I wanted their stories to live on.’ And they do, they will.
A Time To Live is on BBC2, Weds 17 May 2017 at 9pm. In addition to the BBC documentary, there’s a link up with The Open University where nine of the people filmed give longer interviews. There’s a clip of the programme HERE. Don’t miss it.