Hope Frozen is one of the most moving documentaries you will ever see, it certainly takes the award from what we’ve seen at this year’s London Film Festival.
Hope Frozen follows a Thai family who have a young daughter they name Einz, which means love. One day Einz falls into a coma and is rushed to hospital.
Einz underwent an incredible 10 surgeries, 12 rounds of chemo and 20 rounds of radiation therapy. She slipped in and out of a coma, but amazingly, after all that, was up and about with a smile on her face.
But, sadly, it wasn’t enough, and she succumbed to ependymoblastoma, an incredibly aggressive form of brain cancer that no-one has ever survived, before making it to her third birthday.
Einz’s father is a laser scientist and his 15-year old son, Matrix, a highly intelligent young-man. They take some of Einz’s cells away and try to find a cure, but to no avail. Einz’s father is of the thinking he just needs more time and so he turns to Cryonics to help give him that.
Despite going against their Buddhist faith, the family decides to have Einz frozen by Alcor in Arizona. The process occurring within seconds of Einz’s passing at the family home. The hope is that, one day, the technology will exist to cure her cancer.
Lots of people with Thailand had strong opinions on what the family had done after the father began appearing on talk-shows, for his part to promote donations to cancer charities.
In Buddhism, the belief is that when you die, your matter is broken down and released into the world to be reborn as something else. Many in Thai society believed that, by freezing their daughter, the family had trapped her soul.
The family take regular trips to Arizona to see Einz, or the tube/cannister, that she is in. They learn more about the process, as do we. What we learn is more than a little concerning.
The truth is that, whilst they can freeze you, all of you or just your head, they don’t know how to ring you round again. There are also many who believe that the process of freezing isn’t correct, and we don’t know enough about it as yet.
One of those people is Robert McIntyre, a scientist working for 21st Century Medicine in California. He, and his partner Gregory Fahy, managed to successfully freeze and un-freeze a whole rabbit brain, showing it to be completely intact afterwards.
When the family learn of this, they send their son to meet Robert and find out more, it’s perhaps something they wish they hadn’t done.
The infectiously eager and intelligent McIntyre meets with Matrix and shows him the process they took. When Matrix asks how long before it may work for his sister, the answer is glum to say the least.
The problem, according to McIntyre, is that the freezing techniques used by existing companies tend to dehydrate the brain, when actually what’s required is to keep it hydrated and as intact as possible
He estimates that there’s a 0.1% chance of existing Cryonic techniques resulting in successful un-freezing when the time comes.
Hope Frozen is a remarkably moving documentary from first-time director Pailin Wedel. It’s incredibly sad but tinged with hope, even after learning that statistic, the family continue to have faith their daughter will see the light of day again.
(This film was written as part of the BFI Film Festival coverage)