Following a controversial story that flooded the Thai news not long ago, director / producer Pailin Wedel goes back in time to gently reveal a fascinating story behind the flashing news; a story that involves a family dealing in their own, personal way with one of the cruellest intimate tragedies, the death of their young child.
Grieving is something very personal and subjective and science or technology cannot really help to alleviate the pain; however parents Sahatorn and Nareerat Naovaratpong have embraced science in search of hope. Their little 2-year-old girl Matheryn, nicknamed Einz, became ill with a very aggressive form of cancer and underwent a remarkable number of surgeries and treatments before sadly passing away on January 8, 2015. She was incredibly lively all the time through her illness and her father Sahatorn, who is a laser scientist and devotee of science in general, tried all he could to speed up the research on his daughter’s cancer cells and find a cure, just to realise that he was most probably going to lose the race against time.
At that point, he decided to cryopreserve Einz’s brain in hope that science could – one day in the future – find a cure and bring her back to life, making in this way her daughter the youngest person in the world to be cryopreserved.
Shortly after the head and brain of the little girl was transferred to the Arizona’s Alcor Lab, where will be preserved for the time being, the whole story hit media in Thailand and predictably the Naovaratpongs were suddenly under the spotlight. One of the main controversies is the religious conundrum as it questions how the Buddhist concept of reincarnation can possibly fit in this scenario. The family is accused by the fiercer commentators to have trapped the soul of their daughter in a limbo from where it cannot be send to a next life.
However, watching Wedel’s intimate account of this touching and somehow morbid story can make you think that the only trapped person is Einz’s older brother Matrix. The boy, who was 13 at the time of his sister’s death, embodies in fact all the hopes and dreams of his parents. They have already planned his life-mission to carry on the researches on Einz’s cancer cells (also frozen) and keep up with the scientific breakthroughs in cryogenic. Although a science enthusiast already, it is still a huge burden on his shoulders.
“Hope Frozen” is very non-judgemental and objective in narrating the Naovaratpongs’ struggle to grasp the reality, but the audience is bound to read various hidden subtexts according to their personal sensibility and catch different nuances. Shot over 2 years, and enriched by lots of material from the family’s home videos, the documentary shows all the shades of hope of the Naovaratpongs, but the impressive portrait that emerges is probably Matrix’s, as he is caught in the critical passage from childhood to adolescence.
Wedel’s gaze is respectful and doesn’t dwell into complex scientific concepts but the intrinsical intimacy of the subject makes it very close to voyeurism as we witness this profound distress. The family visit to the Arizona’s Alcor Lab is a hard bite to swallow as it really highlights the different defensive mechanisms of the father, almost excited by the high-tech scientific environment, and the mother in the most humanly deep pain.
Intriguing and poignant, “Hope Frozen” is the story of a family in search for answers but also an unsettling question-generator.