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Life, death, and Mark Patinkin

Mark Patinkin, second from left holding the basketball, with filmmaker Dante Bellini Jr., right, Patinkin's son Alexander, left, and Deven Bussey, who also worked on the project, rear.Dante Bellini Jr.

Longtime Providence Journal columnist Mark Patinkin’s cancer diagnosis is the subject of a new short documentary that will debut next week at the hospital where he was successfully treated.

The 26-minute film by Dante Bellini Jr. is called “Demons and Dragans: Mark Patinkin’s Cancer Journey.”

The demons are easy to identify. Patinkin had to confront his own mortality, and navigate the complexities of what’s ultimately a family disease.

The dragons – or dragans, if you will – are Dr. Dragan Golijanin and the other providers who treated Patinkin’s papillary renal cell carcinoma.

”This army of caregivers really saved me,” Patinkin said.


The film will be screened at the Miriam Hospital on June 13, followed by a panel discussion with Bellini, Patinkin, Golijanin, and Dr. Anthony Mega. People can RSVP online. A trailer is available here.

Patinkin, 70, has chronicled the diagnosis and his follow-up care in a series of columns for the ProJo. Few things he’s written in his four and a half decades there have resulted in the level of outpouring from readers, he said. Even now, going out on interviews, people will ask, How are you doing?

And how has he been doing?

”So far, so good,” Patinkin said, although “the reality of most cancer patients, myself included, is that you do move beyond thinking about it every day, but you pretty much live from scan to scan.”

A note here: Patinkin and I previously worked together at the Journal. One time the two of us were dispatched to represent the paper at a lifestyle expo at Twin River geared toward baby boomers. And let me tell you: When they saw Patinkin at our booth, those boomers went nuts. They’d say, You’re Mark Patinkin! Then they’d look at me and say: That’s Mark Patinkin! Just about everyone there was familiar with his work; he writes a lot in the first person, which gives readers a real familiarity with not just Patinkin as a journalist, but Patinkin as a person.


Still, the film takes this sort of exposure to a whole other level, both literally and figuratively. You see all of the scars from his cancer surgery.

Bellini described the film is a passion project. He’ll enter it in short documentary film festivals and hopes to get interest from a distributor.

”The story is really about living every day – bringing people in, not pushing them away,” Bellini said.

Bellini said another project, “Lillian,” about a college student from Barrington who died of H1N1 complications, will be screened tonight at the Barrington Public Library.

This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, links to interesting stories, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.

Brian Amaral can be reached at Follow him @bamaral44.