A short film that artfully explores life with dementia will this weekend lead the reprise of a festival dedicated to literary and visual creativity.
Contributors to the inaugural Art and Words Festival, which took place in August, will gather at the Gibsons and District Public Library on Sept. 17 to present works that were developed by randomly-paired collaborators.
Slow Motion Falling is the only motion picture submission in a festival otherwise teeming with poetry, painting and photography. The 10-minute film was the creation of performance artist Maggie Guzzi, filmmaker Gordon Halloran, and photographer Barb Dann. The impressionist documentary depicts the journey of Guzzi’s husband, poet David Phillips, through the complex landscape of dementia.
Guzzi had worked with Halloran before (they collaborated on his 2016 film Body of Light), but the two did not know Dann until festival organizer Cindy Labonte-Smith assigned the three as collaborators. They discovered a mutual affection for the trails of Hidden Grove, where Guzzi and her husband often hiked.
The film was originally conceived as a series of images that invited subjective interpretation. Guzzi and Halloran gradually moved toward a more literal depiction of a creative existence subdued by dementia.
“I thought that an audience could relate better if there was a little more of a connection between me and my husband,” Guzzi said. “I wanted it to be more about my husband. But the thing is that it was my life and I was initiating the creation of this. So it just made sense in the end to have more of a story to it.”
Halloran, who has been producing public art and documentary films for decades, agreed.
“It started to be a kind of a love story, a love story in transition,” he said.
“As a director, I’m always looking for the through line. What are we doing here? What’s it about?” Said Dann. “You ask those questions every time you put together a piece. That was the way it started to form into something, trying to make sense of the forest [imagery] and words and poetry, the possible tragic aspect of the film.”
Drawing on Dann’s photography, the filmmaking team assembled a series of distinct scenes that emphasize emotion over information. A sobering shot of Phillips in hospital contrasts with a breezily surreal sequence of a figure tumbling down a grassy hill.
“There was a lot of release from Maggie on the day [that scene was shot],” said Halloran. “I think that came through in the film as well. It shows that dementia is a roll down the hill. It personifies it, makes it physical. At the same time, it’s slow motion, falling down into the measure of David.”
Although Phillips has seen the film, Guzzi observed that he has become disassociated from his own involvement in it. “At one point he said, ‘I should pay you. You did a good job.’ To that, I simply said yes,” Guzzi laughed.
Slow Motion Falling (known alternately as Falling Down Slowly) will be shown at the Gibsons and District Public Library at 2 p.m. on September 17, followed by presentations by other writers and artists.
The Art and Words festival is a project of the Sunshine Coast Writers and Editors Society. More information is at scwes.ca.
The print version of this story incorrectly reported the surname of poet David Phillips. We regret the error.