Dying to Live    
the journey into a man's open heart   a film by Ben Mittleman

In 1966 my father had open-heart surgery to replace a leaking mitral valve. I was 16 years old. The events surrounding my Dad’s surgery including his convalescence until he died when I was 21, presented the most tumultuous and formative period of my life. Until 33 years later when I discovered that I needed the same operation.

Confronted with my own heart surgery, I chose to document this period on film. I wanteDying To Lived to “hold a mirror up to nature,” as had been my life’s quest pursuing a career in the theater. At 49, I saw my crisis as an opportunity to work toward revealing truths about the human condition central to all of my personal and professional experiences up until this time. I didn’t realize the depths I would explore during this raw journey. I was soon to slip below the surface and tread a long dark road.

Dying to Live chronicles the testing of a man’s heart and the processing of answers found in sorrow. As I stared down the tunnel of open-heart surgery and a complicated recovery, I would confront the pressing needs of those I loved. My lover and soul mate of over 20 years and my mother would both die before the journey ended.

Amidst the increasingly common twin specters of cancer and heart disease, together we wrestled with the challenges of all our health. These are issues that will inevitably be faced in every home. I just happened to have a camera turned on. During the emotional implosion of my universe I fought physical, spiritual and psychological tests to find the will and strength to care for and assist my mom and lover along with two other members of our family in living until their deaths.

In pursuing the truth, the making of this film years after it’s beginnings, has been a salve on the psychic wounds remaining on my soul.

Dying to Live is a story of loss, the struggle to grow, the joy of life… and love.

The lessons live on even when the teachers are gone.

Ben Mittleman
Producer/ Director



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