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Cincinnati director's film about 3 women fighting Alzheimer's gets national premiere on 'NOVA'

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Courtesy Melissa Godoy
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Irene Daniels is helped by her husband Doren and daughter Barb at her home in rural Wisconsin.

Determined, an Alzheimer's disease film by Cincinnati director-cinematographer Melissa Godoy and Wisconsin producer Therese Barry-Tanner, makes its national TV premiere on PBS' NOVA 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 6.

Now called Determined: Fighting Alzheimer's, the film follows three adult daughters — Barb, Karen and Sigrid — who are part of the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer's Prevention at the University of Wisconsin. Here's my story about the film from last July, "Determined" Filmmakers Among Those At Over-the-Rhine Film Festival July 8-11."

Along with the new title comes a shorter version for TV. Godoy and Barry-Tanner cut 22 minutes from the 74-minute documentary to fit NOVA's 52-minute format.

"Honestly, we had to get rid of some of our favorite scenes," says Godoy, whose mother, independent film producer Eileen Littig, was a co-producer on the film.

The award-winning PBS science series wanted the film because of the touching personal stories the filmmakers told after making multiple trips to the three women's homes, Godoy says. The filmmakers also followed them to the University of Wisconsin hospital in Madison, Wis., where researchers regularly assessed the cognitive abilities of the three women, along with thousands of others in the program.

"This is not a heavy science story. It's a human story," says Godoy, a Mount Airy resident.

The Determinedmovie.com site describes the film this way: "Three women at high risk for Alzheimer’s disease offer their brains and bodies to a medical study. After losing their mothers to the disease, these daughters are determined to contribute to the search for a cure. Meanwhile, they anxiously watch for signs of the disease in their own brains."

The NOVA description for Determined: Fighting Alzheimer's says viewers will "follow three women at risk of developing Alzheimer’s as they join a groundbreaking study to try to prevent the disease — sharing their ups and downs, anxiously watching for symptoms, and hoping they can make a difference."

Filming started nine years ago on the project by Godoy, who was shooting Determined while working as a line producer on the Oscar-winning documentary American Factory by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert of Yellow Springs. The Determined crew included Amy Kruep, a Cincinnati Alzheimer’s nurse, and Shawndra Jones of Dayton, who helped with sound recording.

How did the film end up on Nova?

When Godoy and Barry-Tanner attended Toronto's Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival in 2018, they met Lizanne Rouillard, vice president of Filmoption International, who had a relationship with NOVA executives.

"Lizanne loved our film when it came out, and she became our distributor," Godoy says. "Her encouragement and knowledge of the industry was key."