About WHYY

WHYY Press Room

Download this press release (MS Word document)

Award-Wining Actors Richard Dreyfuss and Kathleen Chalfant Featured in Film by Ruth Yorkin Drazen

FRANKL'S CHOICE, a one-hour documentary film focusing on the life and philosophy of the Viennese psychiatrist and philosopher, Viktor Frankl, M.D., Ph.D, will be broadcast on WHYY TV12 Thursday, October 24 at 10 p.m. Narrated by award-winning actress Kathleen Chalfant (CBS-TV's "The Guardian"), the film features the Academy Award winning screen and TV star Richard Dreyfuss who reads sections of Frankl's autobiography, Recollections and other writings on camera.

Together with seldom seen archival film and video footage of Frankl, the film, produced, written and directed by noted documentarian Ruth Yorkin Drazen, enables the viewer to comprehend the powerful messages this great humanist conveyed through his teaching and writings. (Frankl's most well-known book, Man's Search For Meaning, written and published within nine days of his release from the last of four Nazi death camps, including Auschwitz, Kaufering 3 and Dachau, is listed among the ten most important books ever written, according to The US Library of Congress.)

FRANKL'S CHOICE is being presented nationally by WHYY and distributed by American Program Service. It will be broadcast on many public television stations nationwide in the next several months.

"Because of its powerful message, this film is especially timely today in light of the tragic events which occurred on 9/11, creating fear and trepidation and fueling the fires of hatred," says Drazen. "Dr. Frankl, who survived four Nazi death camps, came away from that experience with the knowledge that it is possible for everyone to discover and cherish the greatness of life under all circumstances, no matter how dire they might be. I hope this film can help a vast audience discover a 'voice' which addresses humanity at a time in history when people are deeply confused and floundering."

Born in 1905, Frankl died in 1998. He was the son of extraordinary parents, descendants of Rashi and Rabbi Lowe, legendary Jewish scholars. At age 40, Frankl witnessed Hitler's march into Vienna; within one year, the entire Frankl family was taken to concentration camps. His parents, brother and pregnant wife all died in the Holocaust. Fortunately, Frankl survived life in four Nazi concentration camps and upon his return to Vienna after the war he rehabilitated his life.

Frankl's courage, wisdom and passion for life are an inspiration. He believed that since he survived one of the most horrendous experiences in history, there had to be a higher reason and, therefore, he sought to fulfill his task in life. Immediately following World War II, he resumed his medical career, remarried, began a new family, and, most importantly, he began perfecting and teaching the principles of Logotherapy, the central thesis of which was conceived in the concentration camps. Logotherapy states that even in the face of dire circumstances, we as human beings have the capacity to transcend suffering when we are able to discover and experience meaning in our lives.

Dr. Frankl saw this premise as the answer to the sense of emptiness, purposelessness and anguish exhibited by persons and societies experiencing a progressive loss of values, an increasing "existential vacuum." This is especially important today as the entire world has suddenly been forced to confront international terrorism and the fears of biological warfare.

FRANKL'S CHOICE also focuses on how Frankl's theories are being utilized today by the medical community worldwide, especially in the area of palliative care. Many caregivers have implemented Frankl's thesis in their treatment programs of people who are dying or living with a fatal or debilitating illness. His teachings allows us to examine the determinants of suffering and our human capacity to respond. It clarifies lessons in living from the dying.

Kathleen Chalfant, who recently won Tony, Obie and Drama Desk Awards for her performance as a woman dying of cancer in the Off Broadway stage production, "Wit," has fond personal memories of Dr. Frankl from her student days at Stanford where she attended many of his visiting lectures. In the film, she also reads poetry from I Hear Music in Every Psalm, by Michele M.J. Shore, a Canadian poet.

FRANKL'S CHOICE was produced with the cooperation of the Frankl family in Vienna, including Frankl's widow Elenore Frankl, his grandson, Alexander Frankl Vesely, and granddaughter, Katja Frankl Vesely. Alexander, a logo-therapist and filmmaker, provided home movies, vintage still photos and other archival materials, and all agreed to be interviewed on camera for the documentary.

Leaders in the fields of medicine and psychology participate in the documentary, as well as some patients who are benefiting from this new care-giving approach. They include Reuven Bulka, Ph.D., a Rabbi and clinical psychologist from Ottawa, Canada, who studied with Frankl for many years; Dr. Ned Cassem, Chief of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston; Dr. Bruce Chabner, an oncologist and Physician-in-Chief at Massachusetts General Hospital, and his wife, Davi-Ellen Chabner, an educator, both of whom are cancer survivors; Dr. Balfor Mount, M.D., Professor and Chairman of the Palliative Care Unit at McGill University, Montreal, himself a cancer patient, and his wife Linda Mount; Bernard Racette, a patient at Notre Dame de Merci Hospital, Montreal, and Kevin Robins, a volunteer at the same facility.

Producer/director/writer Ruth Yorkin Drazen, who has won numerous awards for her previous public television documentaries, WHEN DOCTORS GET CANCER and CANCER: A PERSONAL VOYAGE, believes that Viktor Frankl's message has greater meaning today than ever before.

"The film examines a value system that is important to all of us today, young and old," she says. "It is about our capacity to transcend suffering through meaning, even in the most dire circumstances. It is about the catalysts of meaning - suffering, things created and accomplished, things believed in, things left as a legacy and things loved. Finally, it is about the last of human freedoms, when all others have been stripped away, our ability to choose our response in a given set of circumstances."

FRANKL'S CHOICE is funded by Bristol Myers Squibb.


Pledge | TV12 | 91FM | Education | Community | Underwriting | Fresh Air | Membership
Listen Live!
| WHYY Store | About WHYY | Contact Us | WHYY Home