Randi and Brian Johnson love each other, their children, God and their home state of Wisconsin. They live a quiet life in Eau Claire, raising five children. Brian is a shy introvert with an entrepreneurial spirit. He tinkers with various inventions in his basement and has started a handful of businesses. Randi is a free spirit who loves people and works as a nurse. Despite their wildly different personalities, their love for each other is obvious.
But when Randi is diagnosed with breast cancer, things change for them. Together, they go to doctor’s appointments and debate treatments. Randi gets a mastectomy, beginning a difficult conversation about breast reconstruction. The pair are told there is no great solution for rebuilding the nipple – Brian says he’d like to try.
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And he does it. He makes a prosthetic nipple so life-like it tricks doctors into thinking it’s real. Then, together, the devout Christian couple start a business selling … nipples … with Brian as the designer and Randi as the spokesperson and customer service rep. They change hundreds of lives, giving survivors a newfound sense of normalcy after surgery.
The documentary is narrated by the couple’s son, Justin “Superstar” Johnson, who is also the film’s director. Justin has been a bit of a black sheep in his family. He left the state and the faith, but his mother made sure he never fully walked away from the family. Creating this film helped him truly appreciate his parents, their gifts and the difference they are making. His honest account of his parents’ unlikely business makes the documentary all the more powerful, playful and intensely personal.
The packed Thursday night showing was the world premiere of Mom & Dad’s Nipple Factory, which will be playing at festivals throughout the country this year. Milwaukee Film Festival-goers have one more opportunity to catch it Friday at 12:30 p.m. at the Oriental Theatre.