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Remember Isobel

This project has special meaning to Director Sarah Barbulesco. Over a period of years, she slowly lost her beloved grandmother to this tragic disease. Two of her great aunts suffered from the disease before her grandmother and, moreover, her grandfather's second wife recently passed away after years of struggle with dementia.

In November 2009, Barbulesco was inspired by Alzheimer's Association advocate Kate Mulgrew's touching speech about her mother's trials with Alzheimer's. After hearing Kate speak, Barbulesco knew she was destined to create "Project Hope" to honor her grandmother by fighting this disease with compassion and vehemence.

This film is dedicated to Barbulesco's grandmother Elizabeth Keeler Barbulesco and to her grandfather Daniel Barbulesco.

Exclusive Interview with Director Sarah Barbulesco

Q: So, you mentioned that your grandfather was the inspiration for your film. Can you explain why?

A: Well, it was Kate Mulgrew's speech that convinced me I had to join the cause but it was the character of my grandpa that first demonstrated to me the capacity we have as human beings to care for each other. My grandpa is a man whose strength, love, and compassion gives example as to how we all should be. He cared for my grandmother long after she was aware of his efforts and with such grace and tenderness. He embodies what I believe is the very definition of compassion. I feel that we must all endeavor to embrace our humanity and generosity with the same devotion and magnanimity as he.

Q: In your last film, you received some criticism for not making your film purely an "MD film." Could you elaborate on that?

A: Absolutely. I recognize that with Living Now, the MD film, I created a film that did not focus on MD specifically. It was a film about struggle that included an MD aspect, although all the proceeds will go to MD cure research. However, that was my intent. I know that some people believed that because it was an MD benefit film, it should have been solely about MD, and I can't say I disagree. I believe I could have made that film quite well and it's possible it would have reached more people. But, it wasn't the story that I wanted to tell and, frankly, that story seemed tired to me. I've seen a lot of films about a kid suffering from disease and it's just about the family's struggle with that disease and then the kid dies. I wanted my film to be different. Whether or not that was the "right" choice remains to be seen as the film goes to distribution but it was the story that was in my heart and I still feel that the Bradford family has a lot to offer with showing how an imperfect family deals with its imperfect world.

Q: I see. Will your new film also have a theme, such as struggle, that it will depict, or is this story entirely about Alzheimer's?

A: With Project Hope, my Alzheimer's film, I intend to focus on Alzheimer's. The story is very much about the slow deterioration of Isobel due to Alzheimer's. I have yet to see a film that actually focuses (accurately) on losing a relative to Alzheimer's and I think this is largely because the disease is considered "an old person's problem."...

(answer continued in next column)

A: (continued) ...There is an ambivalence about Alzheimer's amongst the young that is so scary to me, almost as if it's okay that people are sick once they reach a certain age. And the state of our medical care for and treatment of the elderly in this country is laughable. All these things need to be shown in a film so that audiences can start to understand that this disease is reaching near epidemic levels, it could happen to anyone, and it can strike as early as thirty.

Q: So, if your efforts are focused on Alzheimer's, why include the gay aspect of the story?

A: That's a great question! I suppose I feel we are living in a time where the LGBT community is on the verge of finally being recognized as being part of the human community. Rights and tolerance are on the rise but there is still this separateness of viewing LGBT people as "the other." I think it is so important for me to show an LGBT character in every film I make and, in this case, to feature one but without making it a big deal. Yes, we hear about this family's disdain for Prop 8. That was a hard hit to the community and it needs to be showcased. But mostly, we see how losing Isobel affects the couple and their sons. We see a loving family struggling with Alzheimer's. If audiences can identify with that family, the gap between the straight and LGBT community will begin to be bridged with understanding and that is absolutely key to me as an advocate for equality.

Q: Well, thank you for making time to meet with us today. We look forward to hearing more about your project.

A: Thank you for coming out. We are very excited about this project and what it can do for both the Alzheimer's and the LGBT communities. The support I've received already is huge. I am reminded daily of the goodness and generosity that is in our nature as human beings. For that, I am endlessly thankful and count myself to be very, very lucky to know the people that I do.

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P.O. Box 3050
Carmichael, CA 95609