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Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story

Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story is a 2009 biographical television drama film directed and co-produced by Thomas Carter, written by John Pielmeier, and starring Cuba Gooding Jr., Kimberly Elise and Aunjanue Ellis. The film is based on the autobiography of neurosurgeon (and later politician) Ben Carson, which was co-written by Cecil Murphey and published under the same title in 1990. A Johnson & Johnson Spotlight Presentation, the movie premiered on TNT on Saturday, February 7, 2009.

Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story
DVD cover
Written byJohn Pielmeier
Directed byThomas Carter
StarringCuba Gooding Jr.
Kimberly Elise
Aunjanue Ellis
Theme music composerMartin Davich
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
Producer(s)Dan Angel
Thomas Carter
CinematographyJohn B. Aronson
Editor(s)Peter E. Berger
Running time90 minutes
Production company(s)The Hatchery
Sony Pictures Television
DistributorSony Pictures Television
Original networkTNT
Original release
  • February 7, 2009 (2009-02-07)

Gooding Jr. was nominated for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie. Carter was nominated for the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Television Film. The film additionally received a Critics' Choice Television Award nomination for Best Movie/Miniseries and four Creative Arts Emmy Award nominations.


In 1987, Dr. Ben Carson travels to Germany to meet a couple, Peter and Augusta Rausch, who have twins conjoined at the back of their heads. Dr. Carson believes he might be able to successfully separate them, but realizes that he also risks losing one or both of them. After explaining the risk, and despite that fact, Ben agrees to operate.

During the four months, he spends researching and formulating a plan to increase his chances of a successful surgery, the film shifts back to 1961 in Detroit, Michigan, to a time when 11-year-old Ben Carson is doing poorly in school. His single mother, Sonya, who had but a third grade education, is distressed about her sons' academic failures and decides to do something about it. First, she requires Ben and his older brother Curtis to learn the multiplication tables, and unbeknownst to them, checks into a mental institution to battle depression. When she returns, she realizes that her sons are watching too much television, so she restricts them to no more than two shows per week, requiring them to read books and write reports on them. She hides from Ben and Curtis the fact that she is illiterate.

Ben and Curtis begin to learn much from the world of books. Within one year, Ben goes from the bottom of his class to the top. However, Ben harbors an irascible temper which climaxes in high school when he nearly stabs his friend over choice of radio station. However, the blade hits the buckle of his friend's belt and does not go through. Shocked, Ben runs home and cries out to God to take away his bad temper. This experience changes his life for the better.

After hard work and strong determination, Ben receives a scholarship to Yale University, where he meets his future wife, Candy Rustin, who supports him in his struggles to get through Yale. After studying neurosurgery, he is accepted as a resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he is faced with a dilemma that could end his career – operate on a dying man without permission or supervision, or let him die. He takes the risk and saves the man's life.

In 1985, after Dr. Carson's mother joins the family in Maryland, Candy is rushed to the hospital where she miscarries their twins. Dr. Carson stays with her all night until the next morning when he does a rare procedure, a hemispherectomy, in which he removes half the brain of a four-year-old who convulses 100 times a day.

The film then returns to where it began: the year 1987, when Dr. Carson is preparing for a risky operation to separate the twins conjoined at the head. With four months nearing an end, Dr. Carson is still unable to figure out a way to separate the twins. Then he receives an epiphany and, accordingly, devises a plan. Twenty-two hours into the procedure, Dr. Carson and his team manage to separate the twins, saving their lives and liberating parents Peter and Augusta. The film ends with Dr. Carson as he is surrounded by members of the press.


Critical receptionEdit

The film received mostly positive reviews from critics. Hal Boedeker of The Orlando Sentinel said of the film, "It's the perfect movie for a country challenged by its new president to do better."[1] Ray Richmond of The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "The film is so good that a little immodesty is not only acceptable but understandable."[2] Audiences enjoyed the film as well, receiving a 7.8/10 rating on IMDb.[3]

Among its detractors, John Maynard of The Washington Post stated, "It is a treacly, plodding affair stunted by awkward transitions and a syrupy soundtrack".[4]

The film won the Epiphany Prize for Inspiring Television, and Kimberly Elise won the Grace Award for Television at the 2010 Movieguide Awards.


  1. ^ Hal Boedeker (2009-02-01). "Let 'Gifted Hands' Move You". Orlando Sentinel.
  2. ^ Ray Richmond (2009-02-05). "'Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story'". The Hollywood Reporter.
  3. ^
  4. ^ John Maynard (2009-02-06). "TV Preview: 'Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story'". Washington Post.

External linksEdit