Still Max

Facing a diagnosis of prostate cancer, artist Max Dean asks, “How do we fix ourselves?”

2020 74 min Colour

    Producer, Director: Katherine Knight
    Producer: Katherine Knight
    Cinematographer: John Price
    Editor: Sabrina Budiman and Anthony Von Seck
    Composer: Osama Shalabi

    Produced with funding support of the Canada Council for the Arts, Toronto Arts Council, York University and Private Donors

    Rogers Audience Award Hot Docs 2021

    Top Ten Audience Choice Award Hot Docs 2021

    Best Canadian Documentary Victoria Film Festival 2021

Photo & Video Gallery

Artist Max Dean’s desire to document his journey with prostate cancer through his art takes on new meaning after his partner, Martha Fluery, is diagnosed with aggressive ovarian cancer and COVID 19 escalates into a world pandemic. One man’s investigation into the emotional impact of prostate cancer illuminates the core vulnerabilities of being human.

Best-known as the co-creator of a robotic chair that collapses and then reassembles itself, Max looks for new metaphors that illustrate the line crossed when cancer is diagnosed.

Rescuing―and ‘fixing’― a dozen discarded animatronic figures from a decommissioned amusement attraction, provides Max with a team of silent helpers. Working in a large studio overflowing with tools and props, Max, his studio assistant MacAllister, and the figures embark on a series of creative experiments that highlight the role of choice, historical example, risk and intuition in problem solving. Staging a series of still photographs in his studio, Max strives to visualize both the psychological and visual impact of a tumour as it multiples and grows. Through actuality footage, staged scenes, and interviews, the film follows Max’s creative process as he creates a tumour, wraps it in bandages, layers it with fabric, encapsulated in plaster and finally chopped in half once it reaches 6’ in diameter. Throughout the film, Max and Martha, alone and together, describe their medical and personal experiences as they grapple with a fundamental reshaping of their worlds.

Max, "It's a moment of realizing you stand on the edge. That moment of enlightenment or that shift from fear to comprehension, if you want to make it as simple as that is, that's the real climax. I think we all feel that our body has literally been invaded by this alien."

The film follows Max’s progression from shock at his initial diagnosis, recognition that Martha’s aggressive cancer is life threatening, to acceptance of the stakes and finally action through the only thing that Max knows well, art! Max makes the point that waiting is not a passive action but rather a time of creative enquiry and incremental learning. Martha asks that we recognize empathy and generosity of spirit even as her choices narrow.

The question, “how we fix ourselves?” is central to this emotional humanist portrait of creativity, resilience, doubt, hope, cancer, illness and vulnerability.