Valerie Harper Narrates Uplifting ‘Banner On the Moon’

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Filmmakers and entertainment reporters Renee Sotile and Mary Jo Godges of West Hollywood, experts on celebrities and outer space, can add another adventure film to their credit.

“Banner On the Moon,” narrated by Valerie Harper, screened at the Regency Cinemas LA Live during the AARP Movies for Grownups film festival. “Banner” a visually stunning documentary about Cindy Abbott, a woman who’s life-threatening disease motivated her to ascend Mt. Everest, then to take on the most grueling test of physical and mental strength in the frozen north, the Iditarod.

Actress Valerie Harper does a terrific job narrating the film, and was on hand for the screening.

“I love you,” said an exuberant Harper, as she hugged Abbott after the screening.

Despite her own life-threatening illness, Harper agreed to the project after the filmmakers contacted her.

“We were thinking of who would be the best narrator, and Mary Jo came up with the idea to ask Valerie,” says Sotile, the film’s producer, director, writer and editor. “We found a way to contact her, she loved the film and agreed to narrate and do an on-camera intro.”

Director-producer Renee Sotile, left, narrator Valerie Harper, producer-composer Mary Jo Godges.

Director Renee Sotile, left, narrator Valerie Harper, and composer Mary Jo Godges.

Godges, a producer-composer on the film, thought Harper could relate to what Abbott was going through, since at one point the former “Rhoda” actress was given only a few months to live.

One of Abbott’s reasons for challenging herself despite her illness, called Wegener’s Granulomatosis, is to bring awareness to the National Organization of Rare Disorders (NORD). In the film, she holds the NORD banner at the summit of Mt. Everest.

The filmmakers took 2 ½ years to shoot and compile the pieces, documenting Abbott’s struggles with doctor appointments and hospitals, including setbacks such as losing eyesight in one eye, along with the glorious outdoors footage of her training with sled dogs and mushers in Alaska and the sweeping vistas on Mt. Everest.

“We went to Alaska twice and got Mt. Everest footage from her guides, and some that Cindy took herself,” says Sotile, adding with a laugh, “and I raided her closet and went through hours of home video, there was a lot of stuff in there.”

Also in the audience were Abbott’s husband Larry and daughter Teshia, who’ve endured the frightening illness with her.

“Her husband is the hero of the film,” Sotile says of the man who’s stood by his wife through the illness and on her quest to raise awareness for NORD.

Sotile, an Emmy-winning video-journalist, and Godges, a composer and former LA radio personality, are also the filmmakers behind the award-winning “Christa McAuliffe: Reach for the Stars,” and numerous other documentaries, through their Traipsing Thru Films that is based in West Hollywood. [Disclaimer, this reviewer was a contributing writer on “Christa McAuliffe.”]

They are also the creators and reporters behind the entertainment news blog LGBT Hollywood.

For more information on the film or the filmmakers, see traipsingthrufilms.com.



Journalist Laurie Schenden covers the entertainment industry, with many of her notable celebrity interviews appearing in the Los Angeles Times and other national and international publications. As a longtime columnist and feature writer for the LA Times, she also covered events and California destinations for the lifestyle, Outdoors and Travel sections. Laurie Schenden's international pieces include the long-running Where Are They Now celebrity feature for Spotlight Magazine, published in five languages. Laurie has also contributed to numerous documentary films, and produces content via Saving Grace Films.

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