Hot Docs 2021: ‘It Is Not Over Yet’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

It Is Not Over Yet is an in-depth, emotional journey into the day-to-day rhythm of a controversial nursing home for people with dementia in Denmark. There are many stories that come out of nursing homes that aren’t always positive. There have been very traumatic stories surrounding the treatment of the elderly, especially those suffering from dementia. The documentary highlights, the founding nurse of Dagmarsminde, May Bjerre Eiby, who has no interest in specific dementia diagnoses or medicine. Since neither improves the quality of life for her 11 residents.

As someone who has seen dementia first-hand, this documentary made me extremely emotional. To just see a different approach for treating this illness was moving. My own grandmother went through so much in the nursing home and it is truly heartbreaking to leave a loved one in there. It is a tough pill to swallow because of the negativity surrounding the nurses who work in those facilities. Recently, it has been uncovered that the long-term care homes in my local area have been violent with patients, or they even just let them go without assisting them. They have never had full time care, or even proper care, for that matter.

What nurse Eiby enforces to her residents, is a treatment inspired by methods introduced by Florence Nightingale 150 years ago, as well as Danish philosopher Løgstrup. It is called ‘Compassion Treatment’, as Eiby calls it. It prioritizes hugs, touch, humour, nature, and the joy of being a part of a community. It was just such a refreshing take on the approach in helping elderly people suffering from dementia. After suffering the painful loss of her own father, due to neglect at a nursing home, Eiby is determined to inspire complete change in the way people with dementia are treated in the healthcare system.

It Is Not Over Yet is a very intimate, beautiful and informative documentary on how to approach helping those suffering from dementia. It is a necessary watch that can hopefully bring some change in order for the residents and their family members to feel safe leaving their loved ones in a nursing home. Eiby’s approach is something that should be studied and adapted in order for people to understand what dementia is and how it can be treated without medicine or any form of frustration towards the elderly during their time of need.


‘Grace Fury, A Voice With Legs’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Grace Fury, A Voice With Legs is an interesting documentary that highlights the art form of dance. Laura Carruthers, leads a world-class performing artists in a feature film memoir that explores unique choreography and cinematography to express the internal thoughts of performers. It is a cross between dance theatre and autobiographical documentary. Dance has always been about connecting to the theme or mood of the music that is being used. It is a form of expression and Carruthers speaks on how challenging it can be to build projects for film and stage, anywhere in the space.

She pays homage to the Classical and Scottish Highland dance traditions. While doing so, she expresses her thoughts about dance and the connectivity it has to everyone’s emotions. The documentary has great camerawork and very soft framing to show the beauty of the choreography. She took the time to show how beautiful the art form can be, as she adds a voice-over explaining how she is feeling and how her world works. It is truly a reflection of Laura’s years in the arts. She brought together her passion of cinema and dance to present unique visuals, so the viewer will be able to connect to the movements.

You almost enter into a trance while watching it because, in a way, it does have some experimental elements. The post-production team did a very good job on the editing, as it is always hard to create something, with multiple shots, for live performances. That is what impressed me the most, was the playfulness of the camera when moving with her dancers on stage. It really did capture the beauty of the art form and how fluid those movements are. People don’t realize how much of your own spirit goes into those movements and connecting with them.

Grace Fury, A Voice With Legs showcases dance theatre in a unique way, while discussing the difficulties of building projects in the field. There’s a level of calmness that comes with watching these performances and how there is so much honesty in the way she is delivering her thoughts. To see the love of the art form through this documentary was refreshing and inspiring. True creatives and artists will appreciate the work that has been done.

San Francisco International Film Festival Selection: ‘After Antarctica’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to go on an expedition and then experience the aftermath of it? Well After Antarctica is a documentary that highlights the entire journey of an international crew of six explorers in 1989, who set out to be the first humans to cross Antarctica by dog-sled. Award-winning filmmaker Tasha Van Zandt intertwines the past and present, using stock footage through a different lens and utilizes the frame to tell this story. The expedition’s leader, Will Steger, returns to the Arctic tundra – this time at 75 years old – on his own, as he retells that historic, near-death journey all those years ago.

The documentary was beautifully shot and the one thing that Van Zandt did, was that she let the image within the frame breathe. If it was a scenic landscape, she let the viewer really take in how vast the Arctic was. As the viewer, you could feel yourself connect to the area and understand what Will Steger and his crew had to go through. The expedition took a toll on all of them, mentally and physically, and after watching this documentary, you can appreciate the work they did for the greater cause.

It’s such a fascinating watch because of the archival footage and actually seeing the weather conditions during the expedition. That is what is so shocking about this documentary, is the fact that they had to go through all of that, without the world knowing how that expedition affected them in the long run. You can also relate to Steger because he is returning to a place that really changed his life in so many ways. So, in a way, you feel that emotional connection to the environment as well. Not only because, Steger retells his story and what he was presently feeling, but because of the way Van Zandt captured the environment.

After Antarctica is a documentary that allows its subject to fully explore the extents of his own mind because of this strenuous journey. There is deep reflection of his time spent on the expedition and a beautiful, cathartic journey of his connection to nature in that environment. Tasha Van Zandt took her time with his story and fully explored it, so viewers could appreciate every corner of the globe and understand how important a connection to nature can be.

Sundance Film Festival ‘In The Same Breath’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

In the Same Breath directed by Nanfu Wang, accurately highlights the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Wang navigates the spread of the pandemic from Wuhan to the United States and compares both countries. She starts with the rumours that began to spread in early December 2019, that there was a different strand of SARS. Doctors advised those who knew about the strand to keep quiet. It wasn’t until mid January that cases for the coronavirus were confirmed.

Wang visually captured the grand scale of the pandemic by showing how large these cities were. That is what got to me the most, the fact that there were thousands of people in a city of that scale and they couldn’t be saved. Whether it was Wuhan or New York City, there are thousands of people confined to these small living spaces. Wang and her family travelled to Wuhan to celebrate Chinese New Year with her mother and shortly after, the virus spread. The fact that Wang had to send her husband and child away, to the United States, while she stayed back and cared for her parents, was heartbreaking.

She also showed the overflow of the hospitals and how traumatized health care professionals were from the outbreak. The government stepped in and took control of the media the second the outbreak began. They needed to control the narrative and control what journalists were spreading. They also had to prepare for any negative press that could come from Western media. What Wang showed in the hospital rooms was difficult to watch, she did not shy away from showing the virus for what it was. It was also important to have these open discussions with healthcare workers because so much of their trauma is being repressed, in order for them to keep going.

In the Same Breath is a necessary watch and compares how two countries handled the same pandemic. There are two different governments being compared and in regards to the United States, two very different perceptions of the virus. At the end, we see Wuhan celebrating New Years Eve 2021, all crammed together in an open space. Although that scene is extremely hopeful for other countries, this pandemic affected so much more and we will continue to see change as the year goes on. This is a great watch and will show how this pandemic was handled in the most detailed way possible.

After So Many Days: A 365 Day Journey With Musicians Jim Hanft & Samantha Yonack


By: Amanda Guarragi

After So Many Days is a documentary that will take you on tour, with a newly married singer/songwriter duo, Jim Hanft and Samantha Yonack. They decided to embark on a tour, to play one show a day, every day, for a year. It is a concept that not many people have even come close to attempting, but they wanted to see how everything would play out. Jim and Samantha’s love of music, their creativity and determination sent them on a journey that changed them forever.

The film has been an official selection at more than 30 film festivals worldwide and has just been released today, along with a companion album “Songs from After So Many Days”. It is incredibly candid, as they film each other and their experiences, travelling to different cities and performing for everyone. Samantha felt really grateful for this experience and how interacting with their audience has been affected by the pandemic, “At a time where we can’t tour and we can’t physically be there in front of people, we’re hoping that this film can do that in place of us doing that. So it’s kind of touring for us at the moment which is nice.” The film festival circuit has been incredibly rewarding for both Jim and Samantha, they truly appreciated sharing their music and their journey with the world.

Photo Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures

Jim and Samantha travelled to 14 different countries. There were so many beautiful moments and it was lovely to see the reception to their music on a global scale. One moment that popped into Jim’s head, was when they performed at a memory care facility. “We went in there and we learned a couple of songs, some old timey songs, to kind of bring some of that musical spirit in there.” It has been said that people who suffer from Alzheimer’s are able to piece some memories together through music because a memory can be tied to a song, which at some point in their lives evoked an emotion. “Seeing some people who were kind of suffering, hearing the music, light up and start to dance, that was really moving.” Something as simple as playing a song, triggers a memory, and that is what makes music so incredible.

Photo Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures

The beauty of this documentary is that it is a 2-in-1 tour for the audience. Not only do you have a front row seat to their show but the behind the scenes of their day-to-day process. An entire year of travelling, performing and meeting new people, is definitely exciting but it can also be exhausting. It is such a well rounded piece. You really get to know Jim and Samantha so well. Their personalities fill the screen and their passion for their craft is truly inspiring.

After So Many Days is a wonderful documentary because it takes the viewer into a space where creativity and art is a necessity. This film speaks to creative minds and the hearts of determined individuals who want to pursue their dream. Jim and Samantha’s journey will uplift anyone who has been struggling with their process. The power of music demands to be felt in this documentary and it’s a great feeling.