Today I had an odd but honest experience in class today. After presenting an emotional project, you burst into tears, manage to make your classmates cry then they offer applause for your first short film. There was that familiar feeling of being back in art school and letting oneself be connected and vulnerable. I was slightly embarrassed for being so emotionally bare and thought it might make the other students uncomfortable but what else can one do but feel overwhelmed and be true in that moment?
So, how do I say this? My partner’s father is very ill. Let’s use the C word. He has cancer. Two weeks ago John and I decided to visit his parents’ hometown near Toronto, Canada. On our journey there I decided to capture small moments of our trip. The excitement of knowing the whole family would be gathering for Thanksgiving was tempered by a bittersweet tone.
We were welcomed warmly and the weekend trip, on the one hand, felt like any other family gathering. There were toasts, a dinner table groaning with mounds of food, and lots of small conversations catching up with family members I hadn’t seen in a while. On the other hand, everyone knew we had especially come together to spend time with John’s dad. Was it to say hello or goodbye?
Last night John’s mother called us with bad news. His father’s health was deteriorating rapidly. A hospital bed had been moved into the living room. The doctor pronounced John’s dad had another week, maybe a month left. After this call, John stayed quiet and fell asleep. I lay in bed blinking in the darkness feeling restless and helpless.
Remembering the footage from the trip going there, I decided to channel that into making a movie at 3am. Here is my first short film
“The Last Journey”. See below for the update. Out of respect to John’s mother, I have removed the link to the from this post.
Update November 6, 2015: Despite photographing almost everyone on John’s family to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving a few weeks ago, despite formal portraits of his dad and each of his brothers, his mother was very upset after watching this above-mentioned short film. She didn’t mention any of the photos. However, she felt the 12 seconds of footage of John hugging his dad and of old family portraits was a betrayal of her home and hospitality. I was blindsided by our conversation when she blamed my lack of judgement and lack of sensitivity on being immature and stupid. Believing these “last” portraits of the family were a way of honoring the family, I was taken aback by her rage, her violent words. Immediately she demanded an apology for pushing her boundaries and who could blame her? Empathizing that she and her husband are likely experiencing one the most painful and trying times as a couple, I can only comply. Therefore, out of respect, the link to the video has been removed.