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Bike Vessel

An African-American filmmaker explores health disparities within the Black community through the lens of his father, Donnie Seals Sr., who almost died after 3 open-heart surgeries. Nearly 20 years later, Seals’ makes a miraculous health recovery after discovering his love for bicycling.

Liverwurst sandwiches, ribs, and pulled pork, were just a few of the Southern delicacies filmmaker Eric Seals grew up eating alongside his father, Donnie Seals Sr. Living in Wheaton, a south suburb of Chicago, he also watched his dad drink and smoke for almost ten years, until 1995 when he almost died. Donnie Seals Sr. would undergo his first open-heart surgery before the age of 50. For the next five years, he would have a total of 3 quadruple bypass surgeries and be forced into early retirement. However, the story doesn’t end there. Seals’ is now 70 years old and bicycles more than 30 miles a day; his heart problems have all but disappeared. Having once been on more than 20 daily medications, he is now down to one, and his doctors call his recovery miraculous.

Much of Seals’ health story is in the past. ‘Bike Vessel’ will utilize archival footage/photographs and animations to take viewers to Seals’ previous, unhealthy life and health complications. Seals’ present-day struggle to maintain his health and his commitment of doing that through cycling is what is pushing the narrative forward. By the end of the film, viewers will understand where Seals once was in his health journey, how he made a full recovery and his everyday commitment and struggle of never going back to where he once was. The filmmaker’s health similarities to his dad are striking.

‘Bike Vessel’ has become an emotional self-reflection for Eric, who is approaching his dad’s age when he had his first open-heart surgery. Through this, Eric has become a character. During the film, you see him bike alongside his father, symbolizing the parallels in their health journeys as the filmmaker hits a crossroad: change his habits now, or end up with the same scars as his dad. The film will utilize interviews with other family members, including Seals’ wife Sharon, who was left to care for a family of 5 on her own during Seals’ health battles. ‘Bike Vessel’ tells the story of a man defying health statistics and renewing his lease on life. It examines health disparities among Black men, the group with the lowest life expectancy and highest death rate of any other racial and ethnic group, through expert interviews and educational animations. ‘Bike Vessel’ utilizes Seals’ health journey to showcase the health issues in our country, from our complex and unaffordable health insurance systems to racism and discrimination in health care.