Monday, September 16, 2013

Behind the Screen: I Remember Better When I Paint.

Note: Moving Pictures is featuring the filmmakers from the upcoming CSWE 2013 Film Festival in Dallas, sharing the stories behind the making of their films. Filmmaker Berna Huebner explains below the background of the documentary I Remember Better When I Paint, which seeks to illustrate the positive impact of the creative arts on people with Alzheimer’s disease.

This documentary shows how the creative arts can improve the quality of life for people with Alzheimer's disease. The film demonstrates the intersection among the arts, medicine, and the scientific world and helps people gain a different perception and understanding of Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s is the only disease in the top 10 causes of fatalities with no prevention, cure, or way to slow the progression. This documentary asks: What recourse exists for the millions of people who suffer from this disease? Scientists have discovered that Alzheimer’s normally spares, to a large extent, the parts of the brain related to emotions, creativity, and creative expression. Neurologists—including several who are interviewed in the documentary—recognize the benefits of creative therapies. Nonetheless, only a small percentage of care facilities are making effective use of these approaches, and the film urges that an effort now be made to share these positive approaches and hopeful possibilities.

The documentary grew out of a poignant moment that occurred when I was visiting my mother, Hilda Gorenstein, at a nursing home in Chicago in the 1990s. My mother had been a distinguished artist under the name of Hilgos, and she now had Alzheimer's. I asked her: “Mom, do you want to paint?” She, who dejectedly had stopped her creative work, responded: “Yes, I remember better when I paint.” With those words, I enlisted art students to work with my mother, and she began to paint again, emerging from apathy and agitation. In painting, she regained some of her capacity for communication and much of her dignity. She continued painting for almost 4 years until her death at age 93.

The documentary is narrated by actress Olivia de Havilland and features a moving interview with Yasmin Aga Kahn, whose mother, actress Rita Hayworth, found comfort in painting as an individual with early onset Alzheimer’s. International experts (as well as those with the disease, family members, and caregivers of all ages) appear in the film. Among those experts are Dr. Robert N. Butler, the first director of the National Institute on Aging (NIH), and Dr. Samuel E. Gandy, director of Alzheimer’s Disease Research at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine.

The film is a joint production of French Connection Films and the Hilgos Foundation with the support of the French film board and private donors.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Behind the Screen: Nickel City Smiler.

Note: Moving Pictures is featuring the filmmakers from the upcoming CSWE 2013 Film Festival in Dallas, who will share the stories behind the making of their films. Filmmaker Scott Murchie talks below about the issues that resonated for him before, during, and after the making of Nickel City Smiler, a film about the plight of refugees in America's Rust Belt.

Photo courtesy of CEP Films
I met Smiler Greely in spring 2008 and soon became aware of the extraordinary struggle and hardship he and the Karen people endured as victims of the cruel Burmese military regime. Smiler has seen and experienced violence and inhuman conditions that most of us would consider a nightmare: People have been raped and slaughtered, and their villages burned. Survivors are chased across the border into Thailand. This had been life for the Karen people and other ethnic minorities in Burma for the last six decades. After fleeing to Thailand, Smiler was at the mercy of a refugee camp for more than 20 years—confined from the outside world, dependent on rationed food, and left without hope.

Fortunately, in 2008 Smiler and his family were selected to resettle to America with hope for a peaceful life and a chance to succeed. Sadly, their dreams of a new life in the United States were met with many challenges. Refugees are placed into poverty and dangerous neighborhoods where they continue to face the violence and discrimination they sought to leave behind. There are many individuals and groups willing to help, including ESL teachers, community churches, and nongovernmental organizations, but many times they are limited by their resources.

I felt compelled to give the refugees a voice by filming from their point of view over a 6-month period. Nickel City Smiler documents the refugees’ hardship and their incredible determination to one day live in peace and ensure a better future for their children.

Please watch Nickel City Smiler with an open mind, as we did while filming. Refugees are not looking for handouts; they are looking for a peaceful life, a chance to succeed, and a smile.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Last chance to vote: CSWE 2013 Virtual Film Festival.

The CSWE 2013 Virtual Film Festival closes tomorrow, so this is the last chance to vote on the nine films selected. The festival’s student-produced films focus on areas such as cross-cultural adoption, disability, LGBT issues, refugees, sexual abuse, and suicide. The winner of the Virtual Ovation Award—the top-ranked film of the festival, as determined by the audience—will receive a $500 prize.

How to Participate
  1. Sign into or register for Google+
  2. Go to "Communities"
  3. Search for "CSWE Film Festivals" and click on the Film Festival logo
  4. Click on "Ask to Join"
Once you are a member of the community, you will be able to view the films and complete the rating sheets online.