Finding Beauty in What Remains: ‘Piece of Me’ Sheds Light on Alzheimer’s Disease
Art, cinema, and music are the windows to the soul. Independent cinema has gained popularity and sophistication over the years because it celebrates stories that allow us to think outside the box and unleash our creative freedom, to articulate our convictions on critical social issues, to satisfy our curiosity, to break social stigmas, and to expose our minds to people, places, and lives beyond our comfort zone. It is free from the constraints that mainstream or studio-produced films are bound by; making it a more favorable route for budding and veteran filmmakers to express their artistic vision, authenticity, and voice in hopes of transforming our society for the better.
What the Mind Can’t Remember, the Heart Never Forgets
Alzheimer’s is a condition that causes the brain cells to degenerate and lose its ability to support our thinking, behavioral, and social skills that allow us to do daily tasks independently. According to Alzheimer’s Association study. There are over “5.8 million Americans age 65 and older” crippled by Alzheimer’s or dementia in 2020, and two-thirds of sufferers are commonly women. Due to the rapidly growing cases and absence of a cure, it is projected that an estimate of 14 million will be affected by 2050. Strikingly, Alzheimer’s disease has notoriously become the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.
Given that it is an incurable disease, not only are the victims paralyzed by this condition but also their families who feel helpless as they are forced to watch their beloved gradually deteriorate and lose the wonderful memories of the life and people they once knew. Memory loss is a difficult and painful experience one would have to endure, but it shouldn’t make them indifferent or hinder them from living life to the fullest. While there is no one way to cope with the complexities of this disease, educating ourselves on the proper and proven ways to effectively manage the personality and behavioral changes sufferers have to go through is crucial in understanding their needs as well as facilitating our personal healing.
It is also telling that most slates of studios this year will feature stories about Alzheimer’s
Amplifying and making this knowledge accessible is so crucial that many have used the power of cinema to engage and educate the society on this disease as depicted in award-winning films such as The Notebook (2004), Away from Her (2007), Still Alice (2015), and animated short Late Afternoon (2019). It is also telling that most slates of studios this year will feature stories about Alzheimer’s, supporting the fact that there is an escalating need to keep raising awareness as well as advocating for a cure.
Putting the Pieces Together
An independent short film, in particular, has been taking the festival circuit by storm and has been selected by FACETS 37th Annual Chicago International Children’s Film Festival (CICFF), a highly-acclaimed Oscar-qualifying children’s film festival. Piece of Me (2019) brings a unique perspective on Alzheimer’s through the eyes of a young and innocent 8-year old boy, Dylan, who develops a strong bond and unique friendship with Mrs. Brooks, an elderly lady suffering from dementia. As Mrs. Brooks’ memory gradually fades, Dylan makes an effort to take her on a trip down memory lane to remind her of the unforgettable moments they shared.
Within a limited time frame, this evocative story remarkably captured the struggles and challenges of sufferers as well as the different perspectives on how we can fully understand, empathize, and take action towards making a change for the Alzheimer’s and Dementia community. Right off the bat, you are drawn to the chemistry of the characters. specifically their playful banter, inside jokes, and fondness for each other. Choosing to tell the story from the point of view of a child is a clever way to entertain and inform the audience about a sensitive and complex topic in a light-hearted and easily digestible form.
Choosing to tell the story from the point of view of a child is a clever way to entertain and inform the audience about a sensitive and complex topic
Furthermore, being able to incorporate an arc and see a glimpse of character development without feeling like it was rushed or forced is worth noting. This element is usually only seen and adopted in feature-length narratives. It was also evident that everything was meticulously planned from the creative direction, stunning cinematography, compelling acting, artistic production design, to post-production as each little detail brought personality, enriched the intended emotion and goal of the scene, which ultimately added value to the overall impact of the film.
At its core, this heartwarming, tear-jerking, and contemplative story spectacularly encapsulated the powerful message that everything will come and go, but love will always remain. It’s the kind of film that would leave you a better person and prompt you to call your loved ones, especially your grandparents, whom you might not have reconnected with for a while, as soon as the credits roll.
While Piece of Me (2019) is her directorial debut, writer and director, Bruna Cabral, has already established herself in the industry as a force to be reckoned with by being an award-winning producer responsible for esteemed films such as Headway (2018) and Ham on Rye (2019). Not to mention, she was recently awarded the Best First Time Director award at the Oniros Film Awards in Italy. To date, she has 14 awards and 30 nominations.
Cabral is a proud champion for women empowerment as well as an advocate of stories that raise social awareness and spark positive change in society. This subject matter is close to her heart as this disease continues to cripple and affect her immediate family. To get an up-close and personal look into the life of this multifaceted filmmaker and the inspiration behind this film, check out our exclusive interview with her all the way from Los Angeles.
Piece of Me (2019) will be exclusively screening online at FACETS 37th Annual Chicago International Children’s Film Festival (CICFF) from November 13 to 22, 2020. Please visit the official website for more information about the film and purchasing tickets.