2nd Ave & E 47th St New York, NY 10017
4, 5, 6, 7, or S to 42nd Street.
Free screening presented with the Ford Foundation and Friends of Dag Hammarskjold Plaza
An intimate family portrait that explores the tragedy of Alzheimer's disease, the power of art and the meaning of family. “The Genius of Marian” follows Pam White in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease as her son, the filmmaker, documents her struggle to hang on to a sense of self.
The Genius of Marian (Banker White and Anna Fitch | USA | 85 min.)
Pam White is amazing at everything she puts her mind to — from modeling to social work to parenting. For years, she’s been the spark plug at the center of a tight-knit and talented family. Now in her early 60s, Pam is writing a book about her own mother, the celebrated painter, Marian Williams Steele who passed from Alzheimer’s disease in 2001. But in a tragic coincidence, as Pam delves into her past, her memory begins to fail her and Pam is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s herself.
Award-winning director Banker White (along with co-director Anna Fitch, a Rooftop alum) approaches his mother’s story with a raw openness and tender subjectivity that makes for an extremely touching film. Rather than distance himself from the issue, Banker bravely confronts his mother’s illness as best he can. But the ups and downs of Alzheimer’s, the good days and bad days, the denial and doubt, the hope that it will get better — all that makes for a treacherous emotional and intellectual journey. How do you help your mother if she claims she doesn’t need help, and you desperately want to believe her?
As the adult children circle home, and their dedicated father struggles to take care of his beloved wife, fissures in the family appear. There are so many things that people don’t want to say, or say and then regret, or say and forget, that even in the most loving homes, frustration and anger and pain arise. The cruel crux of this disease is in the details, the basic words you can’t recall, the simple actions you can’t complete, and finding a regular routine is hard. Banker’s patient filmmaking allows unspoken ideas and daily activities to speak volumes about the family’s fragile state, much the way the discovery of Marian’s lesser-known paintings (a series of hidden avant garde oils) reveals a darker side to her genius. But the beauty of this film, and the hope for us all, is that through their suffering, the family finds joy and love and appreciation for their lives together.
- Mark Elijah Rosenberg