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Oliver Sacks: His Own Life | American Masters

Black-and-white photograph of Oliver Sacks, dressed professionally, smiling and writing in journal while on train
Courtesy of Lowell Handler
Oliver on train, writing in journal, 1987.

Fri. Apr. 9 at 9pm on WKAR-HD 23.1 & STREAMING | Dive into the life of the neurologist and author who helped redefine our understanding of the brain.Sacks was a fearless explorer of the brain and mind. He redefined our understanding of the diversity of human experience and of our shared humanity.

The two-hour film explores the life and work of the legendary neurologist and storyteller as he shares intimate details of his battles with drug addiction, homophobia and a medical establishment that embraced his work only decades after the fact.

In February 2015, a few weeks after receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis, Oliver Sacks sat down with Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Ric Burns for a series of interviews in his apartment in New York City. For 80 hours, surrounded by family, friends and 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; interviews with close friends, family members, colleagues and patients and archival material from every point in his life, American Masters: Oliver Sacks–His Own Life is the story of a beloved doctor and writer who redefined our understanding of the brain and mind.

The filmmakers had unparalleled access to the extensive archives of the Oliver Sacks Foundation. The materials helped them share the life story of an extraordinary physician and writer who was dogged by his own neuroses and by the rejection of his medical colleagues as he nonetheless redefined for millions of readers the nature of the human mind through the simple act of telling profoundly compassionate stories. The film also illuminates the exploration of the science of human consciousness and the nature of subjectivity and provides a meditation on the deep and intimate relation between art, science and storytelling.

Watch each episode at video.wkar.org during or after the premiere date.

Now in its 34th season on PBS, American Masters illuminates the lives and creative journeys of our nation’s most enduring artistic giants: those who have left an indelible impression on our cultural landscape. Setting the standard for documentary film profiles, the series has earned widespread critical acclaim and 28 Emmy Awards—including 10 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series and 5 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special—14 Peabodys, an Oscar, 3 Grammys, 2 Producers Guild Awards and many other honors. To further explore the lives and works of more than 250 masters past and present, the American Masters website offers streaming video of select films, outtakes, filmmaker interviews, the American Masters Podcast, educational resources and more. The series is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET.


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