Loading Doc: Murder, Miracles and Maya
January 14, 2017 by Todd Lillethun
Cincinnati-based director and cinematographer Melissa Godoy is finishing production for the feature documentary WILL I BE NEXT, which follows several families dealing with Alzheimer’s issues in Wisconsin. Melissa has always been interested in aging issues; her previous documentary DO NOT GO GENTLY focused on the creativity and imagination of seniors, and she herself has provided creative therapy for Alzheimer’s patients. After her own mother connected her with producer Therese Barry-Tanner in Green Bay (her hometown), they discussed creating this film and began raising funds and finding subjects for two years before starting production in 2013. Currently, the film follows stories from three families: Barb taking care of her elderly mother in rural Wisconsin, Karen mourning the loss of her mother and trying to move on with her young family in Milwaukee, and an older couple in Madison who are both participating in a study around Alzheimer’s research – one believes she is seeing early symptoms, while the other believes he is not. Between these stories are conversations among research scientists in the University of Wisconsin-Madison who are lead by principle investigator Dr. Sterling Johnson. Since much is unknown about Alzheimer’s disease until after patients pass away, it is difficult to obtain information while seniors are alive, so the film’s cutting between personal stories and research progress may reveal new connections and obstacles. Production will be completed later this spring, and editing will begin shortly thereafter with the goal of being finished later this fall.
Chicago-based director and cinematographer Alex Skalomenos is returning to the Philippines this month to continue shooting his feature-length documentary PANATA, about the spiritual traditions and evolutions within the village of San Pedro Cutud. In 1985, the Catholic wall painter Ruben Enaje fell from three-story scaffolding on the job, but before he hit the ground he prayed to God for protection. He was not injured. Since then, he began participating in the annual Easter passion play in his village, which had taken place since the late 19th century, but during his crucifixion ritual, instead of using rope to tie him to the cross, he insisted that the nails pierce his hands and feet before driving directly into the wood. Now during Ruben’s thirtieth year in the festival, interest in the Easter pageants has brought huge crowds to the town, where millions of attendees have inspired higher production values, as well as sponsorships, souvenirs, multiple food vendors, nice hotels, and international media coverage that brings them prestige. Still, Ruben would like to not change his life too much. He prefers to participate as a modest volunteer, and continue working as a painter to support his family, even while his role in the village continues to slowly evolve. Director Skalomenos is a freelance filmmaker in Chicago and he will also return in March and April to shoot the next Easter ritual before beginning post-production.
FORGIVING CAIN: THE IMPOSSIBLE POSSIBILITY OF ENDING MURDER
Dr. Gerrard McClendon is a talk show host of the PBS series CounterPoint on Lakeshore Pubic Media, and working to complete a feature documentary called FORGIVING CAIN: THE IMPOSSIBLE POSSIBILITY OF ENDING MURDER, which was originally inspired by his parents’ deaths. In 2009, they were killed in their small town of East Hammond, Indiana by two young men who were 17 and 18 years old, and members of the Black Gangster Disciples. They invaded the McClendons’ house, shot them to death, stole $70 cash, some jewelry and a Cadillac, and were eventually caught after they ran out of gas on the Dan Ryan expressway. Now they are serving 120 years in an Indiana state prison. For Gerrard, who has built a career as a TV journalist and a renowned professor at Chicago State University, the news was especially devastating. He had been covering homicide crime and other legal issues on CLTV and WYCC for years, and his parents were considered role models in their own community. As part of his recovery and effort to confront Chicago’s current spike in violence, this project will address the social impact of homicide, profile 4 – 5 families who have been affected by homicide, and move past the headlines to explore personal stories and analysis. After working on it for the past 1½ years, the film is currently 58 minutes and has offers from 335 PBS stations.
MAYA ANGELOU: AND STILL I RISE by Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack (2016) was nominated for Best Documentary by the NAACP Image Awards (one of five finalists) and will be airing on American Masters on PBS on February 21. Also the Siskel Film Center welcomes it back for a series of screenings starting Friday, January 13.
Todd Lillethun is a freelance producer and editor at Flicker Effects and student advisor at Northwestern University's MFA program for Documentary Media.