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.