In the Family invites us into the world of Joanna Rudnick, a filmmaker who at the age of 27 discovered that she had BRCA—a genetic mutation that is particularly high among Ashkenazi Jewish women. We join Rudnick as she struggles with an impossible decision—whether to remove her healthy breasts and ovaries preemptively or risk a staggeringly high likelihood of developing a deadly cancer. Rudnick crisscrosses the country, from family dinner tables to hospital research centers to her own private video journal, to explore the medical and emotional implications of this decision—one that thousands of women and their families face. What results is a gripping documentary that is as life-affirming as it is heartbreaking.
Rudnick, an experienced science reporter, keeps the film deeply personal as well as informative, introducing us to memorable women who have handled the knowledge of their BRCA status (or fear of it) in different ways. the trio of sisters who take their tests together, facing different results; the determined post-op survivor who embraces her post-mastectomy body; and the woman who first discovered the BRCA gene. We also meet the man who holds the lucrative patent on the diagnostic test, and women who are fighting racial and economic disparity to gain access to it.
As Rudnick turns the camera on her boyfriend and herself, revealing the toll that her looming decision is taking on their budding romance, we find ourselves understanding with deeper complexity exactly what is at stake. In the Family is a powerful meditation on what we are willing to sacrifice to survive.
From 2008 Festival: Director, United States
Joanna brings a personal connection to In the Family as a BRCA-positive young woman. Professionally, she has a background in science journalism and film production. In addition to her role as Director of Development at Kartemquin Films, she is producing Prisoner of Her Past, a film that traces the journey of Chicago Tribune journalist Howard Reich's attempt to uncover his mother's tragic Holocaust childhood in order to understand why she is reliving it 60 years later.
Before returning to Chicago, Joanna co-produced a film on war photographer Robert Capa for the American Masters series. Robert Capa in Love and War was broadcast on PBS and the BBC, premiered at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival, was presented as the film for the 2003 Emmy award for Outstanding Nonfiction Series, and received the Voice of Humanity award at the Mountainfilm Festival.
Prior to her role on the Capa project, Joanna worked for American Masters for three years contributing to numerous films including Juilliard, Ella Fitzgerald: Something to Live For and Joe Papp: In Six Acts.