WISDOM GONE WILD: A Work-in-Progress documentary feature, Coming in 2018
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, a single woman living in New York city actively engaged in a filmmaking career, 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 got frustrated, challenged her when she didn't remember things correctly. My life was extremely stressful and I was depressed. But over time, what I realized was that caregiving is not just for the person cared for, it is also for the caregiver, mutual engagement is required. I needed to engage more fully in this process. When I did, a new relationship blossomed. One of the most effective discoveries was to slow down and listen. Her seeming 'nonsensical' stories had symbols and metaphors referring to her past.
Reciprocity is possible in dementia. You have to enter your loved one's world, tune into expressions, meet their gaze, relax your expectations, accept whatever happens next without judgment, even if there are long silences. You may discover as I did that your loved one is still present, you may also discover a tenderness even if your relationship was a difficult one. My mother had not disappeared as the portrayal of Dementia / Alzheimer’s stereotypes might lead you to believe.
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. Following her mind allowed me to meet her many ‘selves.’ Sometimes she behaved like a child, other times flirtatious and bawdy, behaviors that 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.
Our relatives described my mother as gregarious, mischievous, and fiercely independent. I only knew my mother as her daughter I didn’t know the person she was in the world to others across her lifetime. 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 if we have the patience. 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.
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 2018 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. 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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Women Make Movies is a 501(c)(3) non-profit media organization
Wisdom Gone Wild has received funding from:
Ghost Pictures Productions