San Rafael, CA, April 30, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Uncommon Productions (“Uncommon”) today announced the West Coast Premiere of their latest documentary, Jim Allison: Breakthrough at the DocLands Documentary Film Festival (“DocLands”) in Mill Valley and San Rafael, California.  Directed by filmmaker Bill Haney, narrated by Woody Harrelson, and featuring music by Nebraska composer Mark Orton and celebrated harmonica player Mickey Raphael, the film World Premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival (“South by Southwest”) and will screen at DocLands on May 4th and 5th.

Jim Allison: Breakthrough is the story of Nobel Prize-winning scientist, Dr. Jim Allison, and his journey to discover how the immune system can cure cancer. Filmed before his Nobel nomination, the documentary paints a richly entertaining portrait of an unconventional, iconoclastic scientist who for decades waged an often-lonely fight to bring his revolutionary cancer therapy to patients.

“I was interested in doing a documentary that united Americans. We live in a polarized time,” said director Bill Haney. “One of the blessings of Jim’s work is there are no Americans – rich, poor, North, South, red, blue – who are pro-cancer.  By watching the amazing work of Jim and his team of inspiring collaborators, we can see how to work together for the common good. The scientific revolution that Jim has sparked in immuno-oncology is changing the lives of millions of patients and their families, worldwide.”

Jim Allison first learned about T cells while an undergraduate at the University of Texas, Austin. In 1985, he became director of UC Berkeley’s Cancer Research Laboratory where, years later, he made his breakthrough discovery in 1996 - developing an antibody that allowed T cells to recognize and attack cancer.

“T cells were just so cool and mysterious,” said Dr. Allison. “I just wanted to understand their role in the immune system. I didn’t launch this work to try to cure cancer, but once I saw the implications for patients worldwide, I was fiercely determined to build drugs for cancer patients.” 

After his discovery in 1996, Dr. Allison partnered with Medarex and Bristol-Myers Squibb (“Bristol-Myers Squibb”) who developed his antibody into a drug, Ipilimumab (trade name Yervoy), which was approved by the FDA in 2011. Several of Dr. Allison’s collaborators and colleagues appear in the film, including Matthew Krummel and Lewis Lanier of University of California, San Francisco (“UCSF”); Nils Lonberg, Alan Korman, and Elliott Sigal of Bristol-Myers Squibb; and Jeffrey Bluestone of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy.

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About Director Bill Haney

Jim Allison: Breakthrough director Bill Haney is the co-founder of Boston and L.A.-based Uncommon Productions, and has written, directed, or produced 17 films including The Price of Sugar, which won the audience award at South by Southwest in 2007, and The Last Mountain, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival (“Sundance”) in 2011. Bill is also a tech entrepreneur and inventor. He is the co-founder and CEO of Dragonfly Therapeutics, a biotech company developing NK-cell based therapies to cure cancer, and the co-founder and CEO of Skyhawk Therapeutics, a biotech developing small molecules to correct RNA splicing disease ranging from neurological conditions to major cancers.

About Uncommon ProductionsFounded in 2000 by Tim Disney and Bill Haney, Uncommon Productions produces documentary and feature films that inspire, enlighten, and engage.

With offices on both the East and West Coast and producing partners worldwide, we are uniquely positioned to deliver quality media for theater, television and home video.


Matt Shelley-Reade
Uncommon Productions