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I Remember Better When I Paint

May 14, 2010

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Center on Age & Community and the Alzheimer’s Association, will be hosting a premiere of the documentary, “I Remember Better When I Paint”, a groundbreaking film that demonstrates how the creative arts can restore quality of life to those with Alzheimer’s. The Milwaukee premiere and screening will be Thursday, May 27th, from 5:00 – 7:00 pm in the UWM Union Ballroom, 2200 E. Kenwood Blvd, Milwaukee. The event is free and open to the public. Reservations are required due to limited seating. To register, please contact Sue Braden at smbraden@uwm.edu or 414.229.2729.

The film, “I Remember Better When I Paint,” produced by French Connection Films and the Hilgos Foundation, was co-directed by Berna Huebner and Eric Ellena. Narrated by Olivia de Havilland, this international documentary features innovative therapies for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Painting, drawing and museum visits are all seen to contribute to an improved quality of life and a restoration of some degree of memory and personality.

The inspiration for the film came from the lively and colorful art created by the painter Hilgos late in her career when she had profound memory loss. The film grew out of a poignant moment several years ago when Berna Huebner, co-director, visited her mother in a nursing home. Berna asked, “Wouldn’t you like to paint again, Mom?” And her mother unexpectedly responded, “Yes, I remember better when I paint.”

Through this, Berna enlisted art students to help her mother to, once again, paint. Berna also established the Hilgos Foundation that provides awards to art students who work with individuals with Alzheimer disease. Once an accomplished painter known as Hilgos, Berna’s mother regained a capacity for exchange and communication and painted during the next few years until her death at age 93.

This film features an interview with Yasmin Aga Kahn, President of Alzheimer’s Disease International, and the daughter of Rita Hayworth. Rita Hayworth found refuge in painting as an individual with early onset Alzheimer’s. International experts (as well as those with the disease, family members and caregivers of all ages) appear in the film. Among those experts are Dr. Butler, a founding director of the National Institutes on Aging (NIH) and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and Dr. Samuel E. Gandy, Mount Sinai Professor of Alzheimer’s Disease Research, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. Both discuss how creative activities engage areas of the brain that are not damaged by the disease and reawaken a sense of personality, identity and dignity. As a result of this film, many will find a different perception and understanding of Alzheimer’s.

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