It seemed as if Steve James was already juggling enough projects lately. The Hoop Dreams and Interrupters director is currently focused on the Roger Ebert doc, Life Itself, and is still moving forward with a global food system issue doc called Generation Food. Now suddenly we get this short film he’s made called A Place Called Pluto. About ten minutes long, the piece was co-produced by Kartemquin Films as a commission for a project called Living With Alzheimer’s, aimed at raising awareness of the disease.
On the project’s website, James offers some personal reasons for making his contribution, which is about a journalist named Greg O’Brien dealing with the early stage of Alzheimer’s and his family’s response. He shares that his great aunt had the disease but he was reminded of someone much closer:
the real impetus was looking back on how my father suffered from Parkinson’s Disease and was bedridden for five years before he passed away. I saw how my mother and sister showed great compassion, fortitude and generosity in taking care of him throughout. And before my dad succumbed to dementia in the late stages of the illness, I remember how depressed and even embarrassed he seemed to feel that this had befallen him.
Alzheimer’s and dementia are two things I fear more than death itself. I’d imagine it’s an identifiable fear for most people, though as a writer who wants to write until he dies, I really related to this short. But I don’t know which part got at my emotions more, the scenes with O’Brien bravely acknowledging his decline or those with his wife and kids discussing his life and what they’re going to do as if it’s a death sentence (it is, but the steps before death are maybe even more difficult).
Watch the short below. And then go check out the other three docs commissioned for the project — films directed by Oscar winner Roger Ross Williams (Music by Prudence; God Loves Uganda), Oscar winner Megan Mylan (Smile Pinki; Lost Boys of Sudan) and Emmy winner Naomi Boak (The Forgetting: A Portrait of Alzheimer’s).