[CUA Office of Public Affairs]

Professor Directs Research In Polio Documentary


Geoff Pingree, an assistant professor of English and Media Studies at The Catholic University of America, was the director of research and assistant producer for the newly released film "A Paralyzing Fear - The Story of Polio in America."

The film, produced and directed by Nina Gilden Seavey and narrated by Olympia Dukakis, is being released at the Film Forum in New York March 4-10. It is scheduled to be broadcast on PBS in the fall.

"A Paralyzing Fear" features people who contracted polio, their families, doctors, nurses, scientists, journalists, and others in society whose lives were transformed by the virus. During a year's time, Pingree searched through some 3,000 films and 5,000 photographs, mostly supplied by the March of Dimes.

Pingree, who has a doctoral degree in film and cultural studies, said two things that struck him during his research were the role that fear plays in society during a disease epidemic and the profoundly collaborative nature of filmmaking.

"Society's fear of polio earlier in this century resonates quite a bit with the atmosphere surrounding AIDS today," Pingree said. "It's hard to know how to react toward a disease like AIDS because it, like polio, destroys quickly yet has mysterious origins and means of transmission."

He also was struck by "how collaborative filmmaking is. There are always a lot of people involved. It's not the same as sitting down and writing a novel or a book. To produce a film is to be part of a large team over a period of several years."

For more information, contact Pingree at 202-319-5488, or Annamarie DeCarlo, director of media relations, 202-319-5600.

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Revised: 4 March 1998

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