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| courtesy Sundance Institute Sam Berns, a Massachusetts teen who suffers from progeria, is the focus of "Life According to Sam," playing in the U.S. Documentary competition of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.

"Life According to Sam"

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U.S. Documentary

*** (three stars)

Thank goodness this isn't your typical terminal-illness documentary, because progeria isn't your typical terminal illness and because Sam Berns isn't your typical teen. Berns, now 16, is one of the hundreds of children worldwide with progeria, a rare genetic disease that causes rapid aging in its victims (particularly in their cardiovascular system). Sam was diagnosed before his second birthday, but his parents, physicians Leslie Gordon and Scott Berns, decided to fight back against the disease -- establishing the Progeria Research Foundation, and fast-tracking a clinical trial of a drug treatment. Directors Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine neatly divide the film between Gordon's research and Sam's efforts to live as normal a life as possible. Both the struggle and Sam's matter-of-fact philosophy are both inspiring.

-- Sean P. Means

No more screenings of "Life According to Sam" are scheduled. The movie is scheduled to air on HBO in the fall.

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