Does Prayer Work?
MetadataShow full item record
Commissioned to research and direct this film by BBC Manchester and Discovery Health in the USA for the EVERYMAN series. The film follows a world wide experiment run by a leading American heart surgeon to test the 'power of prayer'. It took 3 years to complete. 700 heart patients were randomly assigned to prayer (or not) – then prayer groups around the world prayed for them. The welfare of the 700 was monitored for 3 years. The results of the prayer experiment were published in the Lancet and found to be negative. The process of making this film allowed me to explore my research interests in the tension and boundaries between storytelling for documentary and fiction. The finished film was to a great extent a fabrication since the elements of the film (prayer groups/operations) were happening simultaneously in differing parts of the world. Some elements were shot 'as real' many months later. Through editing, I was able to bring disparate elements, together for the first time to create a new reality. I began to experiment and push the possibilities of the documentary form and test my reaction to the boundaries I crossed. The resulting film is an attempt to test Werner Herzog’s idea’s of an 'ecstatic truth' (Herzog on Herzog. Faber 2002). An attempt to grasp a greater truth rather than 'mere' fact - the 'truth of accountants'. The Sunday Times stated that testing prayer was akin to 'nailing down Blancmange'. I agree but the film was a chance to test the boundaries of a concept widely used, but little acknowledged in TV – namely, the wafer thin boundary between 'reality' and the constructed 'realities' of the documentary form. This film led me to a self-imposed three-year break from television to research the inherent dilemmas of the documentary filmmaker.