By Annette Hinkle
Though the Hamptons International Film Festival will feature movies from around the world, there are plenty of good stories to be found here on Long Island — including “Mondays at Racine,” a documentary by Cynthia Wade that highlights the work of two sisters, who offer free beauty services at their Islip salon to women with breast cancer every third Monday of the month.
In addition to make up and manicures, among the services the sister Rachel and Racine (hence Racine, the name of the salon) and their staff offer clients is the very emotional and very personal task of shaving their heads when the time comes.
Wade, who has made the short film for HBO (it will air on that network in 2013), recalls how the idea for the documentary came about.
“I had just read this piece in a newspaper about a cancer nurse who wrote about her experience shaving a patient’s head,” says Wade. “There’s nothing medical about it, but it’s very emotional. In the face of potentially losing your life, hair should be something we should easily let go – but it’s personal and reflects a lot about life, professional and marital issues.”
“There are lots of things living below the surface,” she adds.
But when Wade and her producer began looking for nurses to highlight in a documentary on the topic, they realized it was usually a loved one or a trusted salon that shaved the heads of cancer patients. After searching for a subject, they found the dynamic duo of Cynthia and Rachel (whose own mother had died of cancer) and knew they were onto something.
And beyond highlighting the services the salon offers breast cancer patients, the film shows how Racine truly fills a need in the lives of the women that no medical facility can.
“The doctors are mostly very clinical, busy and see you as a case,” says Wade. “Even if they’re compassionate with a good bedside manner, the emotional component of primary relationships with a husband, partner or friends is not necessarily addressed at all in a doctor office.”
“This is therapeutic. When the women had their heads shaved, Cynthia and Rachel were amazingly supportive,” she adds. “They really invited us into their fold completely. For many of the women, it felt therapeutic to talk out loud and have people listen.”
“Mondays at Racine” will be screened as part of a “Real Healing” series of documentaries at the festival on Monday, October 8 at 2 p.m. at UA4 in East Hampton. A panel discussion will follow.