Hold Your Breath

From The Fanlight Collection

Directed by Maren Grainger-Monsen, M.D. and Julia Haslett

58 minutes / Color
Release: 2006
Copyright: 2005

Mohammad Kochi, a deeply devout Afghan immigrant who believes that only Allah can determine the span of his life, faces possible death from stomach cancer. As they treat the disease, his American doctors try to comprehend his faith and respect his viewpoints, but cultural and linguistic confusions complicate the course of his treatment. Meanwhile his daughters, caught between Afghan and American culture, deal with the possible loss of their father.

First summarized in Dr. Grainger-Monsen and Julia Haslett's acclaimed cross-cultural healthcare film series Worlds Apart, the story of Mr. Kochi's dramatic race with death further unfolds in this haunting new documentary, which chronicles the frustrations that can arise between patients, families, and healthcare providers, and the sometimes life-threatening consequences of miscommunication.

After fleeing Afghanistan in 1979, Mohammad Kochi settled in California, to raise his family, but just as life seems to be getting easier, he is diagnosed with an aggressive, life-threatening cancer. When he rejects the recommended chemotherapy and instead embarks on a pilgrimage to Mecca, his doctor fears that family members, acting as interpreters, have misinformed Mr. Kochi about the gravity of his disease. But Mr. Kochi's daughter, Noorzia, blames a culturally insensitive healthcare system for her father's rapidly declining health.

Can this Muslim immigrant and his Western doctor find a common language in time to save his life? Through intimate moments of anguish and hope, Hold Your Breath illuminates the pivotal role of cross-cultural communication in healthcare decision-making, and the urgent need for cultural competence and diversity training in the healthcare professions.

"A lovely and moving meditation on the clash between religion, culture, and modern medicine."—Kahled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner

"East meets West, religion meets medicine, tradition meets modernity. A powerful and unforgettable clinical story about the importance of communication and the challenges in providing patient-centered care to an increasingly diverse population. A must-see film for health professionals, administrators, and learners who wish to improve their cultural competence and positively transform our service delivery system."—Robert C. Like, MD, MS, UMDNJ, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

"An excellent job of depicting how one culturally diverse family copes with living in the United States. A vivid testimony of how our health care system can exacerbate the natural process of dying for culturally diverse citizens. Not only is there a great need for cultural competence among physicians, but also for others in the medical field."—Cirecie A. West-Olatunji, PhD, President-elect, Association for Multicultural Counseling & Development (AMCD)

"Highly Recommended. A perfect fit for library collections supporting programs in the health sciences, multicultural collections, Middle Eastern studies and social work collections."—Educational Media Reviews Online

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Maren Grainger-Monsen, M.D. and Julia Haslett
Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics

Select Accolades

  • Chicago International Documentary Festival
  • American Psychological Association
  • Wilbur Award, Religion Communicators Council
  • Plymouth Independent Film Festival
  • Quality Healthcare for Diverse Populations Conference
  • Islamic Medical Association of North America
  • American Society for Biothics and Humanities
  • Freddie Awards, Finalist
  • WORLDFEST, Silver Remi Award


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