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Dementia film gets Edinburgh festival screening

A short film about one woman’s experience of dementia is being screened at the Edinburgh Film Festival next week (21 and 23 August 2006).

‘Ex Memoria’ is the result of a collaboration between the award-winning writer/director Josh Appignanesi and lecturers from Bradford Dementia Group, a division of the University of Bradford’s School of Health Studies.

The idea for the film came from Appignanesi’s visits to his grandmother, who was the inspiration for the film’s central character of Eva, when she had dementia and was living in a nursing home.

Eva is sensitively played by Olivier Award-winning actress Sara Kestelman. The 15 minute film gives a strong sense of Eva’s strange experiences as everyday life in the nursing home is transformed by vivid memories from the past. A brief scene showing Eva as a young girl (played by Natalie Press) is a strong clue that her early life in war time Poland has affected her life in the present.

The film was funded by the Wellcome Trust’s SCIART scheme, with academic partners Errollyn Bruce and Andrea Capstick from the Bradford Dementia Group involved from an early stage. They advised on the portayal of nursing home life and making Eva’s dementia believable, so that the film would be suitable to use in training and education for those working in dementia care.

Errollyn, a Dementia Studies Lecturer at the University of Bradford, convened a small group at the start of the project that included colleagues from the Bradford Dementia Group and the Bradford branch of the Alzheimer’s Society to advise on the script and portrayal of the characters.

Errollyn said: “It’s been an incredible experience to work on this project with such an array of talented film makers and actors.

“Ex Memoria gives people a glimpse of the strangeness of living with dementia. Josh drew upon his grandmother’s life history and experiences to create the character Eva, and the collaboration with the Bradford Dementia Group helped him present a believable picture of Eva’s experience of dementia.”

Errollyn helped the lead actress Sara Kestelman to prepare for her role and both she and Andrea Capstick from the Group attended the shoot and worked on learning material to go with the film, which has now been made into a DVD.

Errollyn added: “Ex Memoria is filmed in a way that highlights Eva’s view of events. It challenges us to think about what she is experiencing and makes us wonder what it would be like to be an old person with dementia, trying to make sense of past and present.”

Emma Banks | alfa
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