DocHouse Digest: GLEASON | DocHouse

DocHouse Digest: GLEASON

Wednesday 15 March, 2017

GLEASON tells the heart-breaking and inspirational story of NFL star Steve Gleason, who at the age of 34 was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/ALS) and given a prognosis of just 2 to 5 years to live. Six weeks after his diagnosis, Steve learns that his wife Michel is pregnant with their first child. He begins recording intimate video diaries for his unborn son, wanting "to pass on as much of who I am as I possibly can to you."

Ahead of its release we've pulled together some useful resources about the film and its main subject.

Name: Stephen Michael Gleason

Age: 39

Career: NFL star, played for The New Orleans Saints from 2000 ‐ 2008.  

Career Highlight: On 25th September 2006, Steve Gleason was responsible for one of the most dramatic moments in Saint’s history, when he blocked a kick early in the first quarter of a game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Superdome. Watch it: HERE  It was the Saints' first game in New Orleans in nearly 21 months, following Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of the city and the team’s home ground, which was used to temporarily house victims of the storm in its aftermath. The Saints won the game and, unexpectedly, went on to have the most successful season in their history.

Married: In 2008, he married artist Michel Varisco. They were introduced in 2004 by a mutual friend. See Michel's work: HERE

Diagnosis: In January 2011, Steve was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease and was given a prognosis of between 2 and 5 years.

Rivers Gleason: Perhaps the most significant accomplishment for Steve and Michel since the diagnosis was their decision to have a child, Rivers Gleason, born in October 2011. The decision prompted Steve to start recording his life, and physical deterioration, through video diaries for his son which are reedited to form the film’s basic narrative.

“Team Gleason”: Shortly after his diagnosis, Steve and Michel founded "Team Gleason" to show that patients can not only live, but thrive after their diagnosis of MND. Primarily, the charitable foundation provides cutting edge technology, equipment and services to individuals with neuromuscular diseases or injuries. In the long term, Team Gleason aims to create a global conversation and raise public awareness of the disease, with the hope of ultimately finding a cure. Find out more: HERE

Ice Bucket Challenge: Remember back in 2014 when throwing a bucket of icy water over your head went viral?  The Ice Bucket Challenge raised millions for the ALS Association in the US and the Motor Neurone Disease Association in the UK. During the 2014 Ice Bucket Challenge, Team Gleason had over 18,000 donors and raised nearly $1 million. 

The Steve Gleason Act: Both the US House of Representatives and the Senate unanimously passed “The Steve Gleason Act”, which was signed into law on July 31, 2015 by President Obama. The act ensured the availability of life sustaining communication devices for individuals with communication disabilities, including Motor Neurone Disease, Cerebral Palsy, spinal cord injuries, and Rett Syndrome. Crucially, the new law covers the cost of Speech Generating equipment for Medicare patients, acknowledging the equal importance of the right to be heard. Read more: HERE 

Some additional resources:

  • PURE NONFICTION Podcast Ep. 38: Clay Tweel on Gleason. Listen: HERE
  • IndieWire: How ‘Gleason’ Director Clay Tweel Turned Family Video Into a Global Story. Read: HERE


★★★★☆ The Independent: "moving and insightful"  

★★★★☆ Time Out: "razor-sharp and completely heartbreaking"

Rolling Stone: "the year's most inspirational doc" 

Variety: "an emotional powerhouse of a documentary"


GLEASON is screening daily at the Bertha DocHouse from Friday 17th March. Watch the trailer and book your tickets: HERE.