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Labour of love


Filmmaker captures lives, joys and enduring humanity of dementia patients and their loved ones. 

A family history of dementia, coupled with a fierce passion for health and well-being, sparked filmmaker Corinne Maunder’s interest in creating a short film based on the condition.

Maunder’s film Love, Loss & Laughter – Living with Dementia shares the story of Cathy Greenblat’s international photographic exhibition, which is now touring Australia. The film made its big screen debut as a finalist at the Reel Health International Health Short Film Festival on October 14,

Maunder, producer at Fire Films Australia, saw the exhibition as an opportunity to create a film on a topic close to her heart. She was inspired to create a film on dementia after seeing her nan, Valma, live with it for the past 15 years.

“The project made me appreciate even more, the time that I have with my nan, as well as my mum and aunty’s unswerving dedication as carers,” she says. “I have seen the impact dementia has had on not only her life, but also the lives of everyone in my family.

“It’s my hope that through this film, viewers can see a unique, compassionate and positive portrayal of people living with dementia.”

The 16-minute movie, which can be seen on YouTube, took about three and a half months to create. Maunder was at times solely responsible for conducting interviews, monitoring sound and lighting and operating the camera.

It captures the essence of the photographic exhibition by splicing together content from many of the interviews, as well as showcasing a variety of items from Greenblat’s collection that Maunder believed best illustrated what interviewees were discussing.

The aim of creating the film was to foster awareness and reduce the stigma associated with dementia. Maunder is passionate about educating people against the myth that a person living with dementia has a mental illness.

“This is in fact incorrect,” she says. “Dementia is an organic brain disease, comparable to heart or lung disease. It’s important for people to realise that people living with dementia still have abilities, and it’s our job to work out what they can still do, or perhaps find new things they might enjoy.”

Greenblat’s exhibition, Love, Loss and Laughter: Seeing Dementia Differently, which has toured Australia since May and will have its final showing in Sydney in November, contains nearly 100 photographs that illustrate the stories of those living with dementia.

The artist hopes viewers will walk away from it with an understanding that life goes on after a dementia diagnosis and realising people with the condition still have social interaction and engagement needs like everyone else.

“They may not later remember the details of an activity but through their mood and behaviour we can often observe that they are aware they have had a joyous experience, I like to teach this through my photos,” Greenblat says. “Corinne has captured the essence of what I am trying to convey through the exhibit and the book – fostering awareness and reducing stigma.”

Alzheimer’s Australia national president Ita Buttrose, featured in the movie, has been a strong supporter of the exhibition, and now the short film.

“This film will help share the message globally that people with dementia remain, first and foremost, human beings and should not be defined by their condition,” she says.

  • There are more than 320,000 Australians living with dementia
  • This number is expected to increase by one-quarter, to 400,000 in less than 10 years
  • Without a medical breakthrough, the number of people with dementia is expected to be almost 900,000 by 2050
  • Each week, there are 1700 new cases of dementia in Australia, about one every six minutes. This is expected to grow to 7400 new cases each week by 2050
  • There are about 24,400 people in Australia with Younger Onset Dementia (a diagnosis of dementia under the age of 65, including people as young as 30)
  • Three in 10 people over the age of 85 and almost one in 10 people over 65 have dementia
  • An estimated 1.2 million people are involved in the care of a person with dementia
  • Dementia is the third leading cause of death in Australia and there is no cure
  • On average, symptoms of dementia are noticed by families three years before a firm diagnosis is made

Source: Alzheimer’s Australia

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