x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

After the Oscars, RAK professor will return to life's work

When Cambria Dodd Russell returns to Ras Al Khaimah after walking the red carpet in Los Angeles, she plans to continue the work that got her to the Oscars in the first place: fostering support for cancer sufferers and their families.

Ras al Khaimah professor Cambria Russell (far right), with Vanessa Bergonzoli, Robin Honan, Cynthia Wade, attending the 6th Annual Women in Film Pre-Oscar cocktail party at Fig and Olive on Feb. 22, 2013 in Los Angeles. Courtesy AP
Ras al Khaimah professor Cambria Russell (far right), with Vanessa Bergonzoli, Robin Honan, Cynthia Wade, attending the 6th Annual Women in Film Pre-Oscar cocktail party at Fig and Olive on Feb. 22, 2013 in Los Angeles. Courtesy AP

When Cambria Dodd Russell returns to Ras Al Khaimah after walking the red carpet in Los Angeles, she plans to continue the work that got her to the Oscars in the first place – fostering support for cancer sufferers and their families.

The professor at the American University of RAK starred in Mondays at Racine, nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject).

The film tells of two sisters from Long Island, New York, who open their beauty salon once a month to women undergoing chemotherapy.  Dr Dodd Russell was one of their regulars.

“I feel like as soon as I shave my head, every time I look in the mirror, I’m just going to see cancer,” she says in the film’s preview. “I don’t know that I’m ready to see that right now.”

Dr Dodd Russell wants to set up a support group when she returns to Ras Al Khaimah.

“I do think it is more difficult for women in the UAE if you don’t have support groups. There are language issues, people with different cultural identities trying to come together and support each other,” she said in Los Angeles after the Oscars ceremony.

“The most important thing, no matter where you are from, is to just surround yourself with people who really care about you, whoever they are. My hope would be that we might be able to get some more support groups up and running in Ras Al Khaimah.”

Dr Dodd Russell received a cancer diagnosis in 2010 while travelling between New York and RAK to collect data for her research dissertation on gender in education. Her hair had just begun to thin when she was contacted by the filmmaker, Cynthia Wade.

“I promised myself that I would participate in anyone else’s research, that I was going to try to be active in research, even if it wasn’t my own. I said I’m not going to get anything else done this year so I want to do something that’s positive.”

The Oscar nomination meant the film would be shown at 100 cinemas across the United States.

After treatment, Dr Dodd Russell wrote her dissertation as quickly as she could and moved to the UAE to work at AU RAK in August 2012.

“It’s been a nice new start for us,” she said. “It felt good to leave New York, where we had endured a very difficult time, and going back to Ras Al Khaimah. It seemed like a nice end of that chapter of cancer.”

The film will be shown on HBO, the subscription television channel, in October.

azacharias@thenational.ae