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Change of Heart documentary review

"Change of Heart" delves into the personal and professional lives of the Barnard brothers, pioneers of the first successful human heart transplant. It explores family bonds, the impact of fame, and the future of cardiac surgery.

Keywords: First heart transplant, Barnard brothers, fame, family dynamics, Hamilton Naki, Grootte Schuur hospital, cardiac surgery, medical history, South Africa. Three words: 'Medical', 'Revelatory', 'Biographical'.


"Change of Heart" is an engaging documentary film directed by Naudene Leisegang and released in 2017. It explores the story behind the first successful human heart transplant performed by the Barnard brothers, Chris and Marius, on December 3rd, 1967. The film additionally delves into the siblings' relationship, contrasting their reactions to fame and revealing a longstanding family secret.


The documentary presents an exclusive interview with Marius Barnard, filmed shortly before his death in 2014. It provides an in-depth look into the Barnard brothers' lives, the impact of fame on their bond, and the ripple effects of their groundbreaking medical accomplishment. The film also addresses the Hamilton Naki rumor and pays homage to all those involved in the pioneering surgery. Furthermore, it examines the future of cardiac surgery and the progress made at Grootte Schuur hospital in Cape Town, South Africa.

More Film Analysis


"Change of Heart" employs a personal and explorative approach, utilizing firsthand interviews and archival footage to paint a comprehensive picture of the Barnard brothers and their medical achievement. The film's depth of research and subject exploration is commendable, shedding light on lesser-known aspects of this historical event.

Historical and Factual Context

The film provides valuable context by detailing the state of cardiac surgery in the 1960s and the significant scientific progress that enabled the first successful heart transplant. It also gives insight into South Africa's medical landscape and the pivotal role played by Grootte Schuur hospital.

Key themes in the film

  • The impact and burden of fame
  • The value of family bonds
  • The importance of medical advancements
  • The ethics and controversies surrounding groundbreaking surgeries

Film Comparisons

"Change of Heart" shares similarities with medical documentaries like "The Bleeding Edge" and "Something Ventured," but stands out due to its personal familial perspective and focus on the pioneers of a specific surgical procedure.

Noteworthy Moments

The film's revelation of a 50-year-old secret adds a dramatic twist, while the tribute to those involved in the first heart transplant serves as a poignant reminder of their contribution to medical history.


Critics praised "Change of Heart" for its captivating storytelling and unique perspective. "This documentary offers a rare glimpse into the personal and professional lives of the men behind a medical milestone," wrote one reviewer.


"Change of Heart" is a must-watch for anyone interested in medical history, family dynamics, or the human stories behind scientific breakthroughs. Its mix of personal narrative and medical exploration make it a compelling documentary.

More film information:


  • IMDB score: 7.8/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
  • Metacritic score: N/A
  • Film festival awards: N/A



  • Chris Barnard: The surgeon who performed the first successful heart transplant
  • Marius Barnard: Chris's brother, who also participated in the surgery and later became a cardiologist
  • Hamilton Naki: A lab assistant rumored to have played a significant role in the pioneering surgery



  • Grootte Schuur hospital, Cape Town, South Africa: The site of the first successful human heart transplant

Key Questions Raised by the Film:

  • How does fame impact personal relationships and professional collaborations?
  • What ethical issues arise in the wake of groundbreaking medical procedures?
  • How has cardiac surgery evolved since the first successful heart transplant?

I wonder what the film would be in another art form

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  1. If this film was a famous book, which one would it be?
    "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" - for its exploration of medical ethics and the human stories behind scientific breakthroughs.
  2. If this film was a famous song, which one would it be?
    "We Are Family" by Sister Sledge - reflecting the central theme of family bonds.
  3. If this film was a famous piece of art, which one would it be?
    "The Two Fridas" by Frida Kahlo - symbolizing the interconnected yet distinct lives of the Barnard brothers.
  4. If this film was a famous celebrity, who would it be?
    Ben Carson - a renowned neurosurgeon who also faced the spotlight.
  5. If this film was a color, which one would it be?
    Red, representing both the heart and the strong emotions in the film.
  6. If this film was a music style, which one would it be?
    Classical - mirroring the film's historical context and the precision of surgery.