Watch all video excerpts of the keynote speech at the 2010 WSA conference in Princeton NJ

Skip Rocks: Alzheimer's Meets Humor & Hope

Reviewed by Terri Corcoran for the Well Spouse® Association. 

In a mere 10 minutes, the devastating impact of Alzheimer's disease on three generations is poignantly captured by writer/producer/director Brendon Aulsebrook McQueen in his film Skip Rocks.   A senior in Columbia University's Film Studies Program, Brendon received a 2009 Reach Film Fellowship for production of this short film, which he hopes will be a "tangible tool in the fight against Alzheimer's disease."  He dedicates the film to his grandmother Lois McQueen, who bravely dealt with her husband Elmer's Alzheimer's, which eventually took his life.

Skip Rocks is a vignette featuring a grandmother with early-stage Alzheimer's, who is visited in her nursing home by her daughter and granddaughter.  Not a moment of this film is wasted, as the camera artfully blends the brief plot, clear characterizations, and emotions from grief and despair to humor and hope, all set against beautiful nature shots infused with quiet music.

In the mere 10 minutes of the film, two relationships are portrayed - that of grandmother/granddaughter, and that of ill mother/caregiver daughter.  While the  daughter's careworn face and actions show the stress and sadness of the caregiver as she strives to maintain her mother's comfort, the granddaughter asks her grandmother about her younger days and relates to her in a more natural way - she wants to know her "grammy" better.  Then she and Grammy escape the nursing home for a brief adventure, as Grammy wants to give some happier memories to her granddaughter than memories of the illness that will eventually consume her.

Skip Rocks held me spellbound and brought up tears.

Brendon McQueen hopes the film will lead to greater awareness and a cure for Alzheimer's, as it also illustrates the "hope that can arise from despair."