About this project
The Genius of Marian is a feature-length documentary film that follows my mother, Pam White, in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. The film, which began three years ago as a series of recorded conversations between a mother and a son, has grown to become a visually rich, emotionally complex story about my family and our struggle to come to terms with the changes Alzheimer’s disease brings.
You can watch the full film trailer here:
How you can help
The film is now in the final stages of post-production and we’re launching this Kickstarter campaign to get us over the finish line. We reached an important milestone last week when we completed our edit, but we still have to sound mix and color correct and pay for music licenses — and we need your help. Your contribution will help pay for the important details of post-production that are essential to making any film complete.
We have put together some very special rewards, including sneak preview screenings of the film, custom-made greeting cards and the opportunity to be included in the film's on-screen credits.
More about the film
After Pam White is diagnosed at age 61 with early onset Alzheimer’s, life begins to change, slowly but irrevocably, for Pam and everyone around her. Pam’s husband, who has promised to love and support her through thick and thin, grapples with his changing role from primary partner to primary caregiver. Pam’s adult children each find ways to show their love and support while mourning the slow loss of their mother. And Pam begins the powerful journey from fear to acceptance of the disease that is slowly making her dependent on others for the basic functions of daily life.
In 2009 Pam had begun writing a memoir about her own mother, the artist Marian Williams Steele. But writing quickly grew difficult and Banker started filming their conversations to help her continue the project. Marian, who died in 2001 of Alzheimer’s disease, was a central figure in Pam’s life and Marian's spirit is felt strongly throughout the film. Pam’s remembrances come alive through Marian’s paintings and a rich tapestry of family photographs, Super 8 home movies and evocative time-lapse photography.
In the film, Pam works through the guilt of putting her mother in a nursing home and the fear that she, too, will end up in an institution. As she slowly comes to terms with her disease, Pam finds solace in the sense of humor and joy Marian retained throughout her own battle with dementia.
The Genius of Marian not only chronicles the progress of Pam’s disease, it also serves as a meditation on what we inherit from the generations before us and the role of memory in creating legacy.
Why should you help us to make this movie?
This movie is important.Its subject is a disease that has already begun to reach epidemic proportions and shows no sign of slowing down. Today 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease and 15 million people are acting as caregivers. As these numbers rise, so does the burden on families and on our already fragile health care system. But despite the numbers of people dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, shame and stigma still prevent us from talking openly about its impact. I believe The Genius of Marian can help change that.
Because of the deeply personal nature of this film and the nontraditional way we’ve chosen to tell my family’s story, The Genius of Marian has the potential to shift the way we talk about illness and loss and to start a conversation about these issues on a large scale.
To learn more about Alzheimer's, we recommend the short video below, which provides an engaging and informative introduction to Alzheimer's disease. It was written by one of our project advisers, David Shenk.
Whether or not you are directly affected by Alzheimer’s disease, your contribution to The Genius of Marian will ensure that we can bring this film about memory, family, love and loss to the widest possible audience.
UPDATE: A VERY SPECIAL HEARTFELT THANKS TO PETER GARDNER WHO PLEDGED $5,000 TO PROPEL US OVER THE HALF WAY MARK AND TOWARDS REACHING OUR FINAL GOAL. For this generous pledge we were offering one of Marian's oil paintings (watch video update #3 to see the painting as it appears in the film). What makes this moment also particularly significant is that it marks the beginning of starting to share Marian's artwork with the world - celebrating the spirit of my mother's original book project.
The painting is a stunning 24' x20' oil painting of waves breaking on the rocks at Good Harbor beach, Gloucester, MA - framed and signed by the artist.
We are also excited to be able to offer 10 copies of The Forgetting: Alzheimer's, Portrait of an Epidemic signed by the author David Shenk who also serves as an advisor to The Genius of Marian project. The book won First Prize in the British Medical Association's Popular Medical Book Awards, and has been called "the definitive work on Alzheimer's" and "a remarkable addition to the literature of the science of the mind."
In January, 2004, PBS broadcast "The Forgetting," a prime-time documentary inspired by the book. Shenk speaks frequently on the history, biology and social urgency of Alzheimer's disease. He has advised the President's Council on Bioethics on dementia-related issues, directed five short animated "pocket films" about Alzheimer's,(one featured above) and is a Senior Advisor to the Cure Alzheimer's Fund.
About the Team
Banker White (Director) directed and produced the award-winning documentary Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars, which tells the story of a group of six Sierra Leonean musicians. The film was nominated by the IDA (International Documentary Association) for best feature in 2006; won grand jury awards at AFI Fest, Full Frame Film Festival and Human Rights Watch Film Festival; and earned audience awards at SXSW and Miami International Film Festival. It was also broadcast on POV in North America, HBO Latin America and NHK in Japan. In 2009, he founded WeOwnTV, a collaborative filmmaking and storytelling project based in Freetown, Sierra Leone. The project is supported by Creative Capital, Freedom to Create, the Bertha Foundation and the Bay Area Video Coalition.
Anna Fitch (Producer/Co-Director) is an Emmy award-winning director with a background in natural history filmmaking and a degree in Entomology. Her documentary work has aired on the National Geographic Channel, TLC, Channel 4, and PBS. Awards and nominations include a 2003 Emmy Award in Best Documentary Directing for BugWorld: War of Two Worlds, a 2004 Emmy Award in Best Scene Design and Lighting Direction for BugWorld, and a 2003 Banff Television Festival Best Popular Science and Natural History Program finalist for BugWorld: Close Encounters. In 2011 her narrative short, The Burning Wigs of Sedition, was in competition at many festivals including the Seattle International Film Festival and won a Best of Festival prize at the Black Maria Film Festival and the Audience Award at SF IndieFest.
Don Bernier (Editor) is an Emmy nominated documentary editor. He has edited several programs for David Grubin Productions in New York, including episodes of the award winning PBS series, The Mysterious Human Heart and The Jewish Americans. In 2009, Bernier co-edited the PBS special, The Botany of Desire, based on author Michael Pollan's best-selling book. He has cut several episodes of National Geographic Television's popular Explorer series, including Mystery of the Disembodied Feet and, most recently, Gang War USA for Winton/duPont Films in San Francisco. In 2011, he finished editing the Peabody Award-winning bio, Eames: The Architect and the Painter, for American Masters on PBS.
Shaleece Haas (Co-Producer) has helped produce several short and feature-length documentaries for PBS including Extreme by Design (Kikim Media) and The Art of Doing It Yourself (KQED-TV). She is the director of the short documentary, Old People Driving, about two men in their late 90s reaching the end of their driving years. The film was broadcast on PBS as part of the NewsHour/Economist Film Project, earned awards at the Phoenix and Los Angeles International Film Festivals, and is currently in distribution with New Day Films. Before turning to filmmaking, Shaleece worked as an editorial photographer and radio producer. She also had the honor of listening to hundreds of stories as a facilitator for the national oral history project, StoryCorps.
What if I prefer to donate without using Amazon Payments?
Amazon Payments is the only payment option on Kickstarter. You can donate to us directly on our website, although it won't go towards our fundraising goal on Kickstarter. Click below to make a donation.
When will I receive my reward(s)?
It depends on which award and we have written estimated delivery next to each award. We will send you updates on our progress as we go, and we promise to send you the DVD by the time it is commercially available. Thank you so much for your support and patience!
What else can I do?
Please share this project far and wide! Tell others that you support it, and ask them to do the same.
Risks and challenges
After three years of filming we have almost completed our film. It's now time to share this story with the world and you are already apart of this process. Please continue to spread the word. Encourage your friends and family to donate. This support will help get us to this next step, and your participation in getting the word out is even more valuable than your individual the pledges.
You can spread the word by linking to our Kickstarter campaign on your Facebook page and Twitter feed. This is a word-of-mouth campaign, and its success relies on people being aware of it.
Tweet about our Kickstarter campaign with hashtag #kickstartgenius and tweet at us via @GeniusOfMarianLearn about accountability on Kickstarter
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