After the death of her mother, documentary film aficionado Therese Barry-Tanner was determined to make a film showing how Alzheimer's disease impacted patients, their families and care givers.
So the wannabe filmmaker hooked up with Cincinnati director-cinematographer-editor Melissa Godoy for a six-year project filming daughters of Alzheimer's patients dealing with their ailing mothers – and their uncertainties and grief – while participating in a cognitive research program for children of parents with Alzheimer's.
Their film, simply called Determined, will be screened during the Over-the-Rhine International Film Festival Thursday-Sunday July 8-11. It focuses on three adult daughters – Barb, Karen and Sigrid – who are part of the University of Wisconsin's Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer's Prevention.
"By telling their stories I also told mine," says Barry-Tanner, whose mother died of Alzheimer's in 2008, four years after she joined the WRAP study. "There are threads in all three of the stories that have something in them that resonated with me based on my family's story."
The Green Bay resident – who worked 30-plus years in project management for Humana – didn't know anything about making a movie so she asked around. People told her to contact Emmy-winning former Wisconsin Public Television program maker and independent film producer Eileen Littig, a Green Bay resident, who suggested Barry-Tanner work with Godoy, her daughter in Cincinnati. Littig also collaborated on the film as co-producer.
"It was a lot of fun working with her," Godoy says of her mother. "She's 83. She was the senior person on the crew." Godoy also worked with her mother on Do Not Go Gently, her 2007 film narrated by Walter Cronkite about the power of creativity on the aging process.
"This film was meaningful to me because this was all about these mothers and daughters," says Godoy, who was the Determined director, editor and cinematographer.
Determined focuses on three families dealing with Alzheimer's disease. The observational film was shot in the three women's homes, and at the University of Wisconsin hospital in Madison, Wisc., where researchers regularly assessed the cognitive abilities of the three women, along with thousands of others in the program.
"Therese is in the study, plus she's a producer of the film," Godoy says. "It was her idea to do a film showing what it's like to be a human research subject in a human research study."
The filmmakers made multiple trips to the three women's homes, and to the rural Wisconsin home of Irene Daniels as her husband and three daughters cared for Irene in the final stages of her life. The intimate scenes were shot by a two-person crew, director Godoy as cinematographer and novice Barry-Tanner as sound engineer.
"Melissa felt that with the family caring for Irene, we needed to have the smallest crew possible to be 'flies on the wall,' so to speak. So for those shoots it was just the two of us," Barry-Tanner says. "I didn't expect to be hands-on with sound in particular. I am not very technically inclined and I am grateful our director was so patient teaching me."
Amy Kruep, a Cincinnati Alzheimer’s nurse, and Shawndra Jones of Dayton, did sound recording at the other locations in the film.
Determined is one of 46 films "celebrating diversity and our shared humanity" to be screened this weekend during the festival at Washington Park, Ziegler Park, Esquire Theatre, Woodward Theater, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Harriet Beecher Stowe House, Esoteric Brewing Co., and virtually. The film festival, organized by LADD, features films about freedom, identify, diversity, disability and faith.
Nearly 500 films from more than 50 countries were submitted; 36 were selected as competition films. See a full list of films here.
Determined will be screened 2 p.m. Saturday, July 10, in Ziegler Park, 1322 Sycamore St. Godoy, impact producer Karen Durgans from Dayton and Alzheimer's disease experts from UC Health and the Alzheimer’s Association will participate in a panel discussion after the screening.
Prizes for Best Narrative, Best Documentary, The Power of Voice Award and the Freedom Award will be announced at 8 p.m. July 10 in Washington Park and streamed to an audience in Ziegler Park.
Saturday night closes with a screening of CODA, which won the Director Award, Ensemble Award, Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize for Best Dramatic film at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. The film features Ruby, who is the only hearing person in a deaf family, also known as a child of deaf adults (CODA). It screens 9 p.m. Saturday in both Washington Park and Ziegler Park.
The festival ends Sunday with a repeat of the award-winning films noon-4 p.m. at Woodward Theater, 1404 Main St., Over-the-Rhine.