A healthy love of film

By Ed Brock

T here are many reasons why Maurice Madden of Jonesboro wants to use his new independent movie "The Debilitator" to educate people on cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

"My mother has diabetes and my father died from coronary heart disease," said 41-year-old Madden. "Being a diabetic myself and following my passion to educate through film, I feel it's my duty to bring real heart to this project."

In fact an acquaintance of his who was in his 40s died from a heart attack while Madden was filming the trailer for "The Debilitator." He was overweight and was not properly treating his own diabetes, Madden said.

The trailer for "The Debilitator," a story about seven individuals' struggles with having Type II diabetes, is finished and Madden said he hopes to be back in production on the entire film by late summer or early fall.

"What we're doing is addressing the various ailments people with Type II diabetes suffer from," Madden said.

Those ailments can include loss of a limb, blindness, kidney failure and heart attack and stroke. In fact, Madden said, research shows that one out of two people with Type II diabetes die from heart attacks.

Born in Anniston, Ala., Madden, who is married, came to Atlanta to attend Morehouse College and graduated from the school in 1986 with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a concentration in medical illustration. That training led to his desire to use films to educate the public on health problems and in 2000 he formed his company Millennium Filmworks Inc.

Madden's other credits include the films "The Epidemic," "Do Something" and "A Difference Between Couples" and commercials for L.B. Holyfield Jeans and U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta.

"The Epidemic" has been used by several agencies to teach compassion for victims of AIDS through a fictional story about a new mother with "a reality-shattering secret." Financed by several pharmaceutical companies, "The Epidemic" has been shown at several colleges and viewed by Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor.

That's the kind of success The Cardiovascular Learning Partnership funded by the Guidance Foundation wants to see for "The Debilitator."

"We provided some seed money to help the project get off the ground," said Bill Weaver, CLP's project manager based in Chattanooga. "We're targeting improved cardiovascular care in the African American community ? (Madden) actually came to us. He had a strong desire to do a film project about diabetes."

The CLP is a national alliance of not-for-profit health organizations including the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association. CLP member Atlanta Dr. Chris Leggett will appear at the end of "The Debilitator" to talk about the link between Type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

"I think (?The Debilitator') will be incredibly effective," Leggett said, adding that the film's effectiveness also depends on how the public receives the information in the film. "We have no barometer for measuring that."

The trailer for "The Debilitator" was filmed at Atlanta Stage Works and Madden is editing the movie at a studio in north Atlanta.

"We use all local crew and local talent," Madden said.

Atlanta' public television station, WPBA, has agreed to air the 30-minute film when it is ready for airing, hopefully by February 2004.