Mondays at Racine
When filmmaker Cynthia Wade set out to make a documentary short about cancer, she was determined to make a feel-good film about a traditionally sobering subject.
“I really didn’t want to make the next cancer film where you feel like, ‘Oh my God, not only is it a documentary, but it’s a documentary about cancer. Can I just shoot myself now?’” said Wade, a previous Oscar winner for the short Freeheld.
She set out to make an uplifting film about cancer not just from a medical perspective but also a beauty perspective, with the film’s starting point being cancer patients’ hair loss experience.
Wade traces the idea back to a New York Times article about a nurse’s first time shaving a patient’s head, but she knew she wanted to find a salon that could be the film’s home base. After considering many salons around the U.S., she settled on one that was coincidentally not far from her home in Brooklyn: Racine Salon and Spa. The Long Island salon is run by two sisters, Rachel DeMolfetto and Cynthia Sansone, full of both “toughness and compassion,” Wade said, who lost their own mother to cancer. For about 10 years, Racine has been offering services free-of-charge to cancer patients every third Monday of the month – which is where Wade got the title for her film, Mondays at Racine.
During the short’s two and a half years of production, Wade filmed several women diagnosed with cancer, and eventually chose to focus on two of them in the final cut: Cambria Russell, a 36-year-old recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and Linda Hart, a 58-year-old who had been battling metastatic breast cancer for 17 years. Mondays at Racine follows the two women through their treatment, captures chemotherapy’s impact on their family life – Russell as she makes her way through the legal maze of adopting a child at an uncertain time in her life, and Hart as the disease takes a toll on her marriage – and, of course, chronicles their hair loss and time spent at Racine.
Now Wade is seeing Monday programs sprout up at other salons. The first she learned of was Veda Salon & Spa in Colorado Springs, which announced its launch of a Mondays program when the short screened at a hospital as part of the Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival. Wade plans to start a campaign to encourage more hair salons across the country to similarly offer complimentary services to cancer patients and hopes to add a map displaying all those salons to the film’s official website.
NEXT SHORT: Open Heart