I usually am not overly inspired to watch documentaries. I have to be very interested in the subject matter to actually sit down and watch one. When I received an email promoting four documentaries to be premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, one immediately stood out. I knew that I had to see The Genius of Marian, a documentary film about Alzheimer’s disease.
Why am I so interested in Alzheimer’s disease? Partly because my sister-in-law was recently diagnosed with it. It is scary because she doesn’t live near any other family members and her husband is not in the best of health. My husband and his other sister already have their hands full with their ailing parents.
However, another, and possibly greater reason that I am so interested in Alzheimer’s disease is my fear that I might have it. I am at that age in midlife where most people, especially women, begin having memory problems. Since I had an exceptional memory most of my life I am especially aware and upset by this. The probability is that my memory problems are all due to aging, however they have definitely progressed past forgetting names and words and what I was going to do next.
The Genius of Marian is the fascinating story of Pam White. Her mother Marian died of Alzheimer’s disease, in 2001, at the age of 89. Marian had been a well-known painter and Pam set out to write a memoir about her mother’s life. During the course of working on the book, Marian began to develop symptoms and was eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s herself.
Although Pam was not able to continue work on the memoir, her son Banker White, a filmmaker, decided to document on film his mother’s struggles through the early stages of Alzheimer’s. This true story has a circle of life feeling to it, starting with a daughter trying to document her mother’s life and turning into a son documenting her life.
It is heartbreaking to see her decline and especially difficult for Pam’s husband who is her primary caregiver. Seeing the effects on her husband was an especially important and educational part of the film. We also see Pam’s frustration, yet there are many times where she just laughs at her mistakes.
See below for more information on screenings and to watch a trailer of The Genius of Marian:
One of the things that scares me most about Alzheimer’s disease is the thought of forgetting my children and so many of the memories. I also hate the idea of my family having to deal with something like this. I don’t think I would even mind this midlife memory loss very much if I knew for sure that it wasn’t Alzheimer’s disease.
Although The Genius of Marian is a devastating look at a terrible disease, I learned a great deal about Alzheimer’s and was completely mesmerized by Pam White and her family throughout the film. I hope that all of you will get the chance to see it. It is a remarkable documentary.
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