MS Society UK Releases Short Documentary ‘With Grace’11.12.2023
MS Society has partnered with UK-based production company Heterodocs Films to release the short documentary With Grace.
The film, which can be viewed on MS Society UK’s website, tells the inspiring story of Grace Sanders, a young performer who was diagnosed with MS in her mid-20s. The short film invites viewers into Grace’s colourful and bubbly world, in which she explores how the condition affects her life goals: to continue pursuing her passion for performing and to raise a family.
Produced and directed by Annika Hagemann and Siobhan McDonnell, the filmmakers’ mission was to reveal the intricacies and uniqueness of MS, as well as the complex emotions that can arise after a diagnosis. Grace’s MS symptoms are often easily missed by the naked eye and the film shines a light on the frustrations of living with an often-invisible condition.
Fatigue and weakness in Grace’s legs means she cannot perform on stage regularly anymore, so she sets up a YouTube channel designed to help other young people dealing with the autoimmune disease.
“This way, I am still performing and also helping people understand this condition”.
Despite her unparalleled energy and optimism, the unforgiving nature of MS – which is detected by scarring on the brain and spinal cord – brings her to her limit when her MRI results show that she has had a relapse: new scars on her brain.
Ultimately, this is a story of hope and resilience in the face of obstacles. “Grace is a force of nature”, says Annika.
“Incredibly strong-minded and driven to live life in its fullest expression, we knew her story was one that needed to be told. We’re so grateful to her for trusting us to be vulnerable in front of the camera and hope her story continues to inspire and reassure many people affected by the neurological condition.” In Grace’s own words, “MS doesn’t define who you are. It’s not your entire personality or the only way you can make decisions.”
A film that was conceived during 2020, the filmmakers crowdfunded the short film and used every possible window to film with Grace amidst the COVID-19 restrictions, capturing her journey over a period of eight months. Wanting to conjure an even more visceral experience that shone a light on Grace’s invisible symptoms, such as memory loss and fatigue, they have also produced a 360 degree VR experience alongside the film that captures Grace’s journey that led to her diagnosis, designed to be used as an educational tool at conferences and events.
As part of the film’s impact strategy, the filmmakers made contact with MS Society UK to collaborate on the film’s release. “It was a pleasure working with MS Society, who not only provided a fantastic home for our film but also ensured that the film did justice to the multi-faceted nature of the condition”, says Siobhan, founder of HeteroDocs Films.
Grace’s story is one story of many – but one with a mission to educate about this widely misunderstood condition and to reassure anyone who is struggling with their diagnosis.