An Alzheimer’s battle; true stories of nurses

June 17, 2013
Documentary
A family’s Alzheimer’s battle
“The Genius of Marian,” at the National Portrait Gallery on June 20 and AFI Silver Theatre on June 22

Pam White was writing a memoir about her mother, who had died from Alzheimer’s in 2001, when she began experiencing symptoms of the disease herself. As her memory began to fail and typing became difficult, she struggled to work on the book, which she had titled “The Genius of Marian” after her mother.

Eager to help, her son, Banker White, began to record conversations with his mother about his grandmother, who had been a painter. From these recordings, accumulated over three years, grew a poignant, feature-length film about the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease and the White family’s struggle with aging and loss.

The film shows “the slow erosion of my mother’s ability to dress and feed herself, her waning independence, and her fierce resistance to accepting help from professional caregivers,” Banker White wrote in a press release about the movie.

It features conversations with family members, memories of how his parents met and fell in love, the “delight” Pam White felt at the birth of her grandchildren, her husband’s changing role from partner to caregiver, and her children’s struggle with the slow loss of a “mom who could do it all,” Banker White wrote.

He said his goal was to “create a film that finds light and beauty in a place often shrouded in shame and confusion.”

“The Genius of Marian,” named in honor of the book that was never finished, will be screened at the National Portrait Gallery in the District on June 20 at 3 p.m., and at the AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring on June 22 at 6 p.m.

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