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Angelina Jolie's boon to a small film headed to Cannes

Until days ago, 'Decoding Annie Parker' -- a film about a genetic researcher and a cancer patient -- was a low-key production with modest ambitions. Then Angelina Jolie revealed she had the very genetic mutation that stars in the film.

The Cannes Film Festival is under way, and though Angelina Jolie won’t be there, her star power will. She’s already generating buzz -- albeit indirectly -- for a film being screened on Saturday: 'Decoding Annie Parker'.

It’s not a big budget production like festival opener T'he Great Gatsby'. “We have no promotional machine,” says director, co-producer and co-writer Steven Bernstein. “Our office consists of two people.”

He spent six years making the film, though didn’t expect it to garner wide distribution or attention. “The subject matter certainly limits it to a certain degree,” Bernstein says.

But that subject matter could now be the film’s secret weapon.

'Decoding Annie Parker' stars Helen Hunt as Mary-Claire King, the scientist who discovered that a mutation in the BRCA1 gene was a predictor of breast cancer. The presence of that mutation is what led Angelina Jolie to undergo a double mastectomy.

Her revelation in the New York Times on Tuesday brought attention to the issue of hereditary breast cancer just days before Bernstein flew to Cannes.

“It’s a tragic serendipity,” he says.

 

Bernstein has received hundreds of emails in the days since and enough interest that he is in talks to double the number of cities where he will hold screenings. In a model the movie's website calls “filmanthropy,” those screenings will be benefit events for charities, such as the American Cancer Society, CancerCare and Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE).

“What we try to do is bring awareness,” says FORCE’s Amy Byer Shainman, “and Angelina Jolie, in one swoop, brought that awareness globally.”

The benefits of that awareness could spread, too, if the film signs a distributor at Cannes. Bernstein hopes to strike a deal that combines a theatrical release with premieres that continue to split ticket proceeds with cancer charities.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Amy Byer Shainman's surname. The text has been corrected.

About the author

Stan Alcorn is a multimedia journalist in New York City. He has reported for NPR and WNYC, where he has focused on business and the New York tech scene.
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