Monday, September 28, 2015

For the Sake of Love

As always, The Legacy Film Festival on Aging gives great food for thought on the multi-faceted nature of aging. This past festival was certainly no exception! Of the many thoughtful offerings, the documentary Mimi and Dona was the most unforgettable. The story is about Mimi, a devoted mother and lifelong caregiver to her 64-year old daughter Dona who had been born with an intellectual disability. At 92, caregiving was becoming too exhausting for Mimi and she had to make difficult choices to protect both herself and Dona. Filled with both heart-warming and heartbreaking moments, there were many teary-eyed viewers in the audience (myself included) who were deeply moved by the unshakable mother-daughter bond.

I continued to think about this story for days afterward, and it brought back many different memories of my dad, including the period before his physical and cognitive decline. Deeply worried about his unmarried daughter, Dad would give me money whenever I visited. I refused the handouts most of the time, but would eventually give in due to his insistence. When I found out that my parents had financial struggles, I scolded Dad for being irresponsible in giving me money. As I recall the hurt look on his face, I now realize Dad wanted to protect me even though he needed protection himself. 

In seeing Mimi's willingness to sacrifice her own wellbeing to care for Dona, I have greater appreciation for my dad's deep, genuine love. This recognition has been a powerful experience, and perhaps the reason why my eyes were flooded with tears during the viewing. I'm grateful to director Sophie Sartain for sharing the beautiful, personal story of her family, which is a universal love story transcending cultural barriers. Kudos to the Legacy Film Festival on Aging for hosting yet another unique, socially relevant event!

NOTE: Mimi and Dona is scheduled to air on public television in November, please check for listings!

Left: Me and my dad on my wedding day. Right: Chatting with Sophie after the viewing. (Photo: Phu Trang)

Saturday, September 5, 2015

A Film Festival on Aging Inspires All Ages

"The Opening Night program begins at 5:30 PM, with several amusing short subjects and one touching and funny documentary film, The Age of Love, about 70- to 90-year-olds taking part in a speed-dating event. Heck, why not? It may sound funny, but it shouldn't. We all want the same things, no matter the age: love, warmth, caring."  - Sheila Malkind, Executive Director, LFFoA

Photos from LFFoA 2014. Clockwise from Top Left: Amy and Sheila of LFFoA; Audience members; Koko with Howard and Sheila of LFFoA; LFFoA 2014. Photo credit: Rachael Podlishevsky and Phu Trang.

The 5th Annual Legacy Film Festival on Aging (LFFoA) will take place September 18 - 20 in San Francisco! I've been a long-time fan of this fantastic event which features films and documentaries from the US and around the world showcasing the multi-faceted aspects of aging. LFFoA's Executive Director Sheila Malkind is an inspiration! Sheila and the LFFoA team work tirelessly to put together a thoughtful, enjoyable film festival each year. The efforts are paying off as LFFoA's popularity has been growing steadily and people of all ages are gaining interest in aging-related matters. 

I recently asked Sheila some questions about LFFoA. Kindly, she has taken time out of her busy schedule to respond. Here are her answers:

What inspired you to start the LFFoA?
I have been in the field of aging in one way or another since I was 25, and shortly will be 77. The life process, including the end of life, fascinates me. I can’t wait to see what 80 will be like! I was the director of a similar film festival on aging in Chicago – Silver Images Film Festival – but the board of directors felt we had gone as far as we could.

When I moved to San Francisco in 2003, I saw a need for an organization that would present the issues of aging through the medium of film. Our mission is to educate, entertain and inspire intergenerational audiences about the issues of aging.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about older adults or aging?
Interesting question. So many misconceptions, but I do think views of older adults are slowly becoming more positive, partly due to the growing aging population, living healthier, longer and more active lives, with higher education. Now 10,000 people are turning 65 every day, and there are fresher views of later life.

On the topic of ageism, we are showing THE WALL, a 3-minute film, on Opening Night (Sept 18), highlighting many of the words that have been negatively associated with older adults: Cranky, grumpy, ugly, feeble, ailing, demented, nursing home – and more! 

What is your vetting process for the films you choose?
That is one of the most labor-intensive parts of the festival, which to outsiders sounds like so much fun: watching films! And it is, if the film fits our requirements to be respectful of older adults, and not use stereotypes. And it must be entertaining! We have 5 or 6 people viewing the films we receive or solicit, writing reviews, and even then we will often have maybe’s!

What is the biggest joy in putting together the LFFoA? 

Nada: it's all work! :-) Actually, it's very satisfying to see the end result at the festival, and that our stated mission is being fulfilled. It's also great when people understand that through watching films about older adults life can continue to be meaningful, no matter the age, no matter the very real challenges of later life.

Are you planning on some rest & relaxation after the film fest?
I will take a vacation with my partner, perhaps in October. However, I have a feeling that we will almost immediately start looking for films – and grants and sponsorship. Despite all the hard work, I can’t help myself!

For more information about the event, visit the LFFoA website.

Legacy Film Festival on Aging
September 18-20, 2015
New People Cinema, Japantown
1746 Post Street, San Francisco