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Author: Kelly King

Sensitivity in communication is essential. Understanding the way that someone will receive the information you are attempting to communicate is the centerpiece to a positive and beneficial relationship. This can be in terms of subtle minutia or as obvious as a name or label. Producer/Director Fred Fountain wanted to display this premise as it related to a recent change in the field of medicine. SIDS Babies is a documentary Fountain created which presents the effect of changing the name “SIDS” (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) to “Unspecified Death” when used to identify this tragic occurrence. The families interviewed in the film help to make the point that words themselves carry a meaning and power that only those who are continually affronted by them can truly describe with validity. SIDS Babies has been presented at medical conferences across the planet from Calgary, Alberta, Canada to Montevideo, Uruguay. The documentary’s presentation in different locations reminds one that this painful scenario effects those of all races, ideologies, and geographic locations. The film itself confirms that a small change can have a hugely benevolent outcome.

SIDS Babies was created to be informative and assist parents who have dealt with this tragedy to begin framing what has happened and to start the healing process. The naming of this is not only important in helping the parents move on but also because the importance of naming conventions in medicine is essential to researchers who apply for grants under those names and for these patients. Because this film was made to be shown at medical conferences and to speak to those who deal with the situations discussed in their own lives, the film needed to carry a much different tone than typically created to speak to a film festival audience. With over thirty years of experience in the film industry, Fountain assessed what the needs were and used a powerful adversary to assist him in the required sensitivity for this message.

Fountain has known composer Chris Wotherspoon (noted member of the prestigious Society of Composers and Lyricists mentorship program) for quite some time and has long admired his work. With the understanding that the musical score for the film would soften the impact of the message and make it more palatable to those being informed by it, he conscripted Wotherspoon to create a sonic backdrop for the emotions displayed in this film. Piano, acoustic guitar, harp, and a library of oft-times unobtrusive synthesizers are interwoven, creating a sense of calm sadness or sadness coupled with low energy/reflectiveness and thoughtfulness. The score here doesn’t avoid the pain but rather recognizes it in a respectful manner. The guitar is reflective with finger plucking and soft, arpeggiated guitar patterns. The use of instrumentation never gets in the way yet always seems present. Meanwhile, the piano allows for sentimentality and thoughtfulness. The subtlety with which Wotherspoon expresses his musical ideas correlates to the switch in this medical label that the film focuses on; the slight change has an incredibly benevolent result.

The reaction by those who have seen this documentary has been overwhelmingly positive. People need a starting point to confront what has happened in their lives and begin to move forward. It’s impossible to not be affected by the stories and the people who share their life experiences in SIDS Babies. Both Fred Fountain and Chris Wotherspoon note that hearing the stories of these lives and their loss is something that they will carry with them for quite a while, possibly forever. Both of these artists find themselves comforted by the fact that they have used their exceptional talents to communicate a shift in the medical world that will result in the benefit of many and a greater understanding by anyone involved in dealing with it.
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