Oliver Sacks: The Life of the Mind will explore the riveting and profoundly moving life and work of this unique figure—an old-fashioned polymath and natural historian of the 19th century sort who redefined our 21st century understanding of brain and mind. The film is based in part on footage shot in the months before he died – including more than eighty hours with Sacks himself, his partner, Billy Hayes, and some of his closest friends, colleagues and family members – as he grappled with the meaning of his life, with life itself, and his impending death with a spellbinding candor, power and humanity.
A month after receiving a fatal diagnosis in January 2015, Sacks sat down for a series of marathon filmed interviews in his apartment on Horatio Street in New York City. For seventy hours, across five days in February – and on three more occasions in April and June in places in the Bronx – surrounded by family and friends, books and minerals, along with notebooks from six decades of thinking and writing about the brain, he talked about his life and work, his abiding sense of wonder at the natural world, and the place of human beings within it.
Drawing on these deeply personal reflections – as well as on nearly two dozen interviews with close friends, family members, colleagues and patients, including Christof Koch, Robert Silvers, Jonathan Miller, Paul Theroux, Isabelle Rapin, Mark Homonoff, Robert Krulwich, Kate Edgar, Shane Fistell, Billy Hayes, Lawrence Weschler, Stephen Silberman, Jonathan Sacks and Connie Tomaino – and with access to the immense archival resources of the Oliver Sacks Foundation, spanning more than six decades – the film will be the story of this extraordinary physician and writer: a sometimes difficult, deeply empathic, and elusive expatriated Englishman – who himself dramatized, as one man later said, “the most strange and thrilling scientific and cultural issue of our time – the nature of the human mind – through the simple act of telling stories.”