Review: ‘1 a Minute’

Docu won't win any prizes for artistry, but works well enough in public-service terms.

Half talking-head docu, half dramatic re-enactment, “1 a Minute” won’t win any prizes for artistry, but works well enough in public-service terms as a rallying cry for health-emergency awareness. Pic’s infomercial aura, heightened by the presence of B-list celebs as primary interviewees, will play best in broadcast settings. Pic launched Oct. 6 with single showings at 532 U.S. theaters, benefitting breast cancer foundation Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

International exposure commences later this month in helmer Namrata Singh Gujral’s native India; theatrical runs in Los Angeles and New York are planned for early next year, with home-format distribution rolling out en route.

Feature was sparked by the director’s own breast-cancer diagnosis several years ago. At the debilitating height of chemotherapy treatments, Gujral (making her directing debut, after writing and starring in 2007’s “Americanizing Shelley”) decided to start assembling a film on the subject. Much of “1 a Minute” (titled after the approximate frequency with which women die of breast cancer worldwide) is devoted to dramatic sequences re-creating the anger, denial and depression she went through, as well as the anxiety experienced by her husband and daughter. (Actors portraying real-life figures go unbilled except offspring Jasmine Cooper, who plays herself.)

These sepia-toned segs are handled in blunt, histrionic terms, but they do serve to break up the visual monotony of talking heads mostly shot against blank black backgrounds. Leading interviewees are variously well-known women who’ve survived breast cancer (though a couple had different forms of cancer). They discuss their personal experiences — emotional, physical and procedural — while offering advice to viewers who might be enduring something similar.

Most are refreshingly down-to-earth, particularly Diahann Carroll and Olivia Newton-John, though Uruguayan-Mexican thesp Barbara Mori tends to tell her story as if still acting in a telenovela. (Baldwin brothers William and Daniel appear here as activists, as their father died of cancer and their mother nearly succumbed, as well. It is noted that men, too, occasionally develop breast cancer.)

Also providing a lot of useful, clear-eyed info is Deepak Chopra, who’s more typically associated with New Age spirituality, while an array of medical authorities and politicos are briefly heard from. Subjects touched on include ways to break the news to family members, non-hereditary cancer causes (environmental toxins, stress, etc.), preventative strategies in diet and exercise, promising research advances, alternative therapies and different religious views on mortality.

But the general emphasis is empathetic rather than investigative, and the film’s urgings of frequent self-monitoring and early detection form a sort of refrain. Those dealing with their own or a loved one’s diagnosis will likely find some reassurance here, though the fact that testimonials come almost exclusively from within the Hollywood and foreign entertainment sectors might not strike the desired note of universality for some.

Editing is sometimes brisk to a short-attention-spanned fault; tech contributions are adequate.

1 a Minute


A Uniglobe Entertainment presentation. Produced by Namrata Singh Gujral. Executive producers, Gujral, Shabnam Kapur, Jagjit Singh Gujral. Directed by Namrata Singh Gujral.


Camera (color, HD), Yasu Tanida; editors, Gujral, Maureen Meulen; music, Jay Ferguson; music supervisor, Michael Mason; production designer, Bradley Jay Valentine; art director, Mary Coffin; sound, Scott Jennings, Carrie Sheldon, Lisa M. Gillespie, Carlton Diggs, Brandon Huus, Theresa Radka; re-recording mixers, Jennings, Dan Bosworth, Paul Berolzheimer; assistant director, Charmaine Kuhn. Reviewed at Century 9, San Francisco, Oct. 6, 2010. Running time: 90 MIN.


Olivia Newton-John, Namrata Singh Gujral, William Baldwin, Jaclyn Smith, Melissa Etheridge, Barbara Mori, Lisa Ray, Daniel Baldwin, Diahann Carroll, Mumtaz, Jasmine Cooper, Priya Dutt, Deepak Chopra, Nancy G. Brinker, Morgan Brittany.

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