WISDOM GONE WILD: A Work-in-Progress documentary feature, Coming in 2019


Wisdom Gone Wild - is a personal documentary following a sixteen year caregiving journey into dementia for Rose Noda, a Japanese-American woman and her filmmaker-daughter Rea. The film follows a non-linear structure going between hospice, early onset, and mid-term dementia; mirroring Rose’s own erratic ‘travels through time’. To ‘enter the world’ of the person living with the condition - Rea enters Rose’s world, sitting calmly during her dramatic outbursts, listening deeply to her fragmented anecdotes, believing in her visions of animals, and joining her in spontaneous musical serenades. Unexpectedly, she finds a deeper connection to a mother who had previously been distant throughout her childhood.  She discovers that like herself, her mother was at heart an artist and a creative. Rea is also able to connect the dots of Rose’s seemingly nonsensical stories to real events in Rose’s history; in particular her incarceration in U.S. concentrations camps during WWII and the FBI surveillance of Japanese Buddhist priests. Accepting her mother’s cognitive changes, Rea discovers a poetic language to communicate with Rose. They develop a vibrant relationship based on play, connection and humor. Rose’s dementia is revealed as a form of wisdom that has gone wild.


In 1999, my mother was diagnosed with vascular dementia. Over the next sixteen years, I embarked on a journey to find a way of caring and being with my mother that would respect her humanity and engage where she was at cognitively.  At the time of the diagnosis, I was an artist, living in New York city, while my mother lived in Los Angeles. 

Two years prior to the diagnosis, I  noticed something was off in her behavior. More than forgetting names, and losing her keys, my mother sometimes acted like I was a stranger.  Compounding the issue, family did not believe anything was significantly wrong. I was able to find a skilled gerontologist and though getting a diagnosis was in some ways a relief, it was of course, devastating and challenging to figure out how to care for her. I made many blunders at first. I corrected and challenged her when she didn't remember things correctly. The stress and the travel back and forth took its toll on my life, I accumulated debt and was constantly in worry. Over time, I realized caregiving is not just for the person cared for, it is also for the caregiver, mutual engagement is required.  I brought my mother to art museums, and films - activities where our interests overlapped. I began to accept her behavior wouldn’t always fit societal norms. In one moment, she could be charismatically charming magnetically attracting everyone around her or flying into a rage at the drop of a hat. I lowered my expectations, some days would be ‘fails.’ I started to really listen without judging realizing that much of her nonsensical stories contained repeated motifs and metaphors linking to her past. My mother would spontaneously burst into song, perfectly pitched, lyrically phrased; a shocking hidden skill we never knew she possessed . Soon, a different relationship developed,

Our relatives described my mother as gregarious, mischievous, and fiercely independent. I only knew my mother as a timid, fearful person. As her daughter I didn’t know the person she was in the world to others across her history. I began to see my mother as a creative soul capable of expressing and communicating performatively. These are some of the gifts that can be revealed in dementia. Through play, improvisation, following her mind and most importantly, listening deeply I was led to discover my mother’s wisdom; who she was at her core. I coined this knowledge “Wisdom Gone Wild." If we can engage, we can be taught through the language of the elders. 

WISDOM GONE WILD is told in a stream of consciousness poetic style that mimics the way that my mother’s mind worked, travelling across time to many eras, communicating through metaphors, conversing with our ancestors (relatives no longer with us that only she could see and talk to).  Following her mind allowed me to meet her many ‘selves.’ Sometimes she behaved like a child, other times flirtatious and bawdy, behaviors that at first made me feel that she had changed.  What I came to understand was these were aspects of self that had evolved in layers across a lifetime.

To date this project has received funding from ITVS Diversity Development Fund, Center for Asian American Media Documentary Fund Award, Temple University Vice President Research Grant.

We are working to complete this film for a 2019 release date. Check this website or sign up for our email contact list. Visit us on Facebook or Instagram.

About the filmmaker:

Rea Tajiri is an award-winning filmmaker and visual artist who received her BFA and MFA from the California Institute of the Arts in Post-Studio Art. Her films explore the psychospiritual dimensions of family, time, place and history.  Rea's films have travelled to screen in international film festivals and have screened on PBS national broadcast. Her work has been included in the Whitney Biennial, and is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, the Venice Film Festival, the Rotterdam Festival and the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival. She won the International Documentary Distinguished Achievement Award for her film History and Memory and her feature film Strawberry Fields won the Grand Prix at the Fukuoka Asian International Film Festival. In 2015, Rea received a Pew Foundation Artist Fellowship. Previously, she was also awarded fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Rea teaches documentary filmmaking and is an Associate Professor in the Film Media Arts Department at Temple University. 








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Ghost Pictures Productions