Film Review: No Ordinary Campaign

by Director Christopher BurkeCHAN ZUCKERBERG INITIATIVE
reviewed by Eric Hillis

In 2014, the internet was awash with clips of people pouring buckets of ice water over themselves to raise money for charity. As director Christopher Burke’s latest documentary points out, a subsequent poll found that more than half of those who took part in the “Ice Bucket Challenge” had no idea why the funds were being raised. Regardless, the challenge netted over $100 million toward research into the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). A year later, however, ALS research once again found itself vastly underfunded.

In 2017, Brian Wallach, a former Obama-era White House staffer, returned home from the hospital with his newborn daughter. On the same day, he was diagnosed with ALS and told he had six months to live. Initially shattered, Wallach discovered that, contrary to his doctor’s pessimistic prognosis, those diagnosed with ALS live, on average, between two and five years. Aware that he had access to Washington, DC, Wallach decided to use his time to change how ALS is understood, treated, and funded.

Wallach’s connections and passionate work ultimately led to President Biden signing the Accelerating Access to Critical Therapies for ALS Act in 2021. The act allows ALS patients greater access to experimental treatments, which may only be as much as 20 percent effective, but, as Wallach notes, he has nothing to lose in accepting those odds.

The film opens with 2012 footage of Wallach running on a beach before cutting to 2021 as he struggles through the same sands with a walker. We initially feel sympathy for Wallach, but by the end of the documentary, that has given way to admiration for both Wallach and his wife, Sarah, along with other ALS campaigners—some who are no longer with us but whose spirit lives on in Wallach’s ongoing, inspirational fight.

This entry is tagged with:
Film Reviews

Enjoying this content?

Get this article and many more delivered straight to your inbox weekly.