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Watch "The Way of All Flesh" Documentary On "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks"

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act June 1, 2011 at 12:37PM

I'm currently reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks; the non-fiction book by Rebecca Skloot, which Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films will adapt into a feature film for HBO, as announced about a year ago.
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I'm currently reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks; the non-fiction book by Rebecca Skloot, which Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films will adapt into a feature film for HBO, as announced about a year ago.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks tells the story of Lacks, a poor African America Baltimore mother of five who died of cervical cancer in 1951 at age 31, and whose cancerous cells from her body, removed and cultured for medical research by doctors at Johns Hopkins (without her family’s knowledge), led to “significant breakthroughs in medical research, ranging from aiding the development of the cure for polio to AIDS-related treatments.

But that doesn't even begin to really uncover the story of this mostly unknown black woman, her family, and the contributions she unknowingly made to science. I'm about 1/4 through the book, so still a long way to go, but, thus far, I'm hooked! There's a lot of meat here, a lot I didn't know before I started reading it, and I can see why Oprah would be interested in making a film based on Lack's story, and aftermath.

The book was published in February of 2010, so it's still relatively fresh, and I encourage you to pick up a copy if you haven't.

I would say more, but I want to finish reading it, which I hope to do in the next week, and then I'll post one of my book-to-film review entries.

Oprah reportedly loved the book so much that she “couldn’t put it down,” and read all 384 pages in one sitting. The adaptation was said to be high on HBO’s priority list, thanks to her encouragement. But, as of today, no word on how far along in the production process the adaptation is; I'd assume it's been given to a screenwriter to adapt, which could take some time:

In the meantime, I learned of this old documentary on Henrietta Lacks and her so-called "immortal cell line." It's titled The Way of All Flesh. I haven't watched it all yet (I only found about it this morning), but I'm told that it's not comprehensive, and shouldn't be relied on as a sole source. Consider it a companion to the book.

It's 55 minutes long, and embedded below.

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