September 28, 2016

VIFF 2016 | Must See BC – Searching for a Perfect 'Mixed Match'

VIFF 2016 | Jeff Chiba Stearns | Mixed Match

VIFF 2016—BC animator/filmmaker Jeff Chiba Stearns's feature documentary focuses on the difficulties of finding suitable bone marrow and stem cell donors in mixed-race communities and the role race plays in medicine. Mixed Match thoroughly explores how our increasing diversity in society effects those seeking proper treatment for blood diseases and disorders within the context of complex ethnic identities.

Stearns really highlights the many different challenges those searching for rare mixed-race donors face in order to delve into more layered social issues of ethnicity. Because of the nature of multiethnic people and their complicated genetics, finding suitable matches is usually incredibly difficult. Non-Caucasian communities have a poor record of registration for donor programs and the amount mixed-Asians, who make up many of the film's subjects, is even lower. The film also focuses on the work of Mixed Marrow, an organization dedicated to raising awareness for related issues and register donors, as they struggle to spread their message in order to save lives.

Often patients are not even aware of the depth of their mixed heritages until they are confronted with treatment for their illness and need to seek possible donors for transplants. These situations can force individuals to confront their multiethnic identities while struggling to deal with their sickness. The concept of more mixed-race families having unintended and tragic consequences is completely fascinating despite its inherently heartbreaking nature. The way Stearns weaves expert interviews, animated sequences, voiceover narration, and personal histories is fluid and educational without ever being too dry or particularly manipulative.

Mixed Match is an informative and informational documentary featuring many heart-wrenching stories of mixed-race families struggling to find matches for their sick loved ones. Like many advocacy films, it relies more heavily on its subjects' personal journeys than filmmaking tricks to enforce its universal value. All this makes the film a more than compelling collection of stories weaving medicine and race into an important but uplifting context.

Mixed Match premieres at the 2016 Vancouver International Film Festival as part of the Ignite and BC Spotlight series.

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