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Friday, April 19, 2013

THE GENIUS OF MARIAN - Tribeca Film Festival 2013 Review

Pam White
Photo credit: Banker White
The Genius of Marian Review
2013, 84 minutes
Not Rated

World premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival yesterday, The Genius of Marian is a heartfelt and very raw documentary about a man who documents his mom's struggle with Alzheimer's starting when she is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's at age 61.  Directors Banker White and Anna Fitch created an admirable documentary, as well as a great one, because they don't resort to cheap sentimentality to tell their story.  They have enough respect for their material and audience that they just show their footage for what it is with very little music.

Banker White's mom, Pam, is the subject of the film.  She is an active, loving, smiley woman who looks like she'd be the kind of person anyone would like to be around, which makes it all the more brutal to watch her Alzheimer's gradually worsen.  Pam is a strong woman who is fortunate enough to have two loving kids and an incredibly devoted husband who cares for her and gives up everything in his life to do it.  Pam's mother, Marian, was a prolific and gifted painter who was also diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.  Because of this, we know the family knows what to expect, most likely making it even scarier for Pam.   

White's reverence and love for his mother is evident.  This is an intensely personal film that comes from the heart.  White shows his mother at her best, singing in her singing group, but also at her worst, such as when she argues with her doctor about whether to hire a caretaker or when she argues with her son about whether to take her medication.  These small moments are monumentally sad, but at the same time, stunningly beautiful in their pure emotion.  This is a woman who wants to keep every last bit of dignity she has.  She is very young and is supposed to have decades more of good life ahead of her, but unfortunately, due to the Alzheimer's, she does not.  

There are no artistic flourishes in The Genius of Marian.  Most of it is shot using rough, handheld camerawork, adding a sense of extreme realism to the piece.  

Overall, The Genius of Marian is a daring documentary that uses this incredible method of filmmaking to illuminate a relevant and sad topic that affects far too many people in this world.  This would be a great companion piece to Sarah Polley's 2007 masterpiece Away From Her.  

Tickets for this film can be bought HERE.

-Joshua Handler

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