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Watch ‘The Way of All Flesh’ – Documentary On “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” (Film Adaptation Still in Limbo)

Watch 'The Way of All Flesh' - Documentary On "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" (Film Adaptation Still in Limbo)

I’m currently re-reading “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” the non-fiction book by Rebecca Skloot, which Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films optioned in 2010, to adapt into a feature film for HBO. Although there hasn’t been much development news since that initial announcement, which is unfortunate. I hope the project isn’t dead. If you know otherwise, or have some insider info on it, fill the rest of us in. 

It’s a book I first read when the announcement of Oprah’s option was made, and I picked it up again over the weekend, looking for a specific passage in it, and instead found myself re-reading the book all over again, if only because I couldn’t find what exactly I was looking for. It’s also a captivating read.

“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, removed and cultured from her body, 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, and much more.

But that doesn’t even begin to really uncover the story of this mostly unknown black woman, her family, and the critical contributions she unknowingly made to science. There’s a lot of meat here, 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, and I encourage you to pick up a copy if you haven’t. You can buy it here.

Oprah reportedly loved the book so much that she “couldn’t put it down,” she said 5 years ago, 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, 5 years later, no word on how far along in the production process the adaptation is. Our last update on the project was in February of last year, when it was announced that “True Blood” executive producer Alexander Woo, had been tapped by HBO to pen the adaptation of the book with Alan Ball and Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films shepherding the project. It could still very well be in the scripting stage; perfecting a screenplay can take time, so let’s hope that it’s still a project that’s very much alive!

Requests for comment haven’t been answered, so I have nothing new to tell you.

But while we wait for news, watch the below BBC documentary on Henrietta Lacks and her so-called “immortal cell line.” It’s titled “The Way of All Flesh.” It’s not entirely comprehensive, and shouldn’t be relied on as a sole source. But there’s enough here to get you going, especially if you know nothing about Lack’s story. Consider it a companion to the book.

Directed by Adam Curtis, the documentary was directed by Adam Curtis, and aired in 1998:

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