In theaters this Friday to coincide with World Health Day comes Oscar nominated filmmaker/director Lilibet Foster and Be Here Now Productions documentary “Be Here Now: The Andy Whitfield Story.”
Andy Whitfield did not start out acting but graduated from the University of Sheffield with an engineering degree. After graduation he moved to Sydney working as an engineer and building inspector.
That wasn’t to last as Andy was discovered on a beach began working as a model and actor. He also began to study drama in Sydney and would get roles on many of Australia’s popular shows such as “McLeod’s Daughters” and “The Strip.” It would be his role as an archangel in purgatory in “Garbriel” that would earn him accolades.
In 2009 he would win the coveted role for the STARZ television series “Spartacus: Blood and Sand.” In January 2010 the series premiered and Whitfield became an instant hit for fans. Yes, you can include me as one of those fans of both the series an actor.
Only a few months into 2010, Andy and Vashti would learn that he suffered from non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Seeking treatment in New Zealand, the production of the second season of “Spartacus: Vengeance” was put on hold. In June 2010, the Whitfield’s were told he was cancer-free, but sadly only three months later suffered a relapse. Eighteen months later, Whitfield would succumb.
Vashti Whitfield, Andy’s wife, opened up her life and experience to filmmaker Foster. For me it is an amazing thing to allow us all to share in what could have been their totally private journey. There time together on film show us the joys and disappointments this loving couple faced on a daily basis.
Today, Vashti continues to raise their two children while reaching the world with her Maybe McQueen blog that was started as homage to Andy but is now followed by thousands who seek daily guidance.
Director and Producer Foster has brought some of the most amazing works with her Oscar nominated documentary “Speaking in Strings,” but also brought “Soul in the Hole” and both premiered on HBO. Premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, her documentary “Brotherhood: Life in the FDNY” received critical acclaim.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give “Be Here Now: The Andy Whitfield Story” five tubs of popcorn out of five. This documentary is so inspirational to watch while also feelings such a stab of sadness for the loss of a talented young man. This documentary allows us to see his strength, the love of his wife and children and moments of humor that are steeped in a fight of courage by both Andy and Vashti.
It is a look into the heart of a family that would do everything possible to treat Andy’s illness but, as any family who has been through this will tell you; serious illness affects every member of the family. From Vashti and their children to his own parents, the documentary hides nothing and does not cover up the intense emotions and reality of human suffering.
I spoke with Andy when he was promoting “Spartacus” and listened again to that interview remembering his wild sense of humor and infectious laugh. His surprise and excitement at playing the title role was ever present the entire interview. He asked me what I truly thought of the show and I couldn’t resist telling him how much my entire family thought he totally rocked as Spartacus.
I told him that he was as bad-assed as they get and the cast was superb. Speaking highly of all his cast mates and thanking wife Vashti for being so supportive is how the interview wrapped up before he said, “Thank you Jeri for taking time to talk to me about the show. It means so much to know you are a thrilled fan – I guess I’m doing it right!” Truer words were never more humbly spoken!
“Be Here Now: The Andy Whitfield Story” is a winner for Best Documentary Film from the Los Angeles Film Festival, Nominee for Best Documentary by the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival and the Official Selection for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
This is a documentary that asks us all to be here now!