Hachisu spent a year documenting the lives of two families and their struggle with dementia as part of the Before We Forget initiative. The hour-long observational documentary will be released online in late 2012.
Even as Joyce Fernandez devotes her life to care for her mother, Celine, who suffers from Alzheimerʼs Disease, she fights her fears with faith when her motherʼs health worsens rapidly. Meanwhile, Dr Irene Giam, who describes herself as an atheist who does not fear death, struggles to restrain her emotions in a relentless march with vascular dementia. Intimate and unflinchingly honest, Before We Forget is a film of two women with dementia who live in an Asian society where terminal illnesses and dying remain taboo.
Filmed in an observational style, BEFORE WE FORGET is the interwoven story of two Singaporean families and their yearlong journey with dementia. The film tells the story of Joyce Fernandez, a 50-year-old woman caring for her mother Celine, who has had Alzheimer’s Disease for 7 years.
When Celine suffers a mild stroke and is hospitalized for over three months, Joyce attempts to keep herself together especially after Celine lost all what little speech and she originally had. “Mum and I would have good conversations. But not anymore. I didn’t lose a mother, I lost a friend”. The duo, staunch Catholics, keep their heads above the emotional turmoil through daily prayer.
The documentary also captures frank interviews with Dr Irene Giam (PhD), a former mathematics tutor and atheist with strong views about death in the face of terminal illness. She is first filmed after being diagnosed with ‘mild cognitive impairment’ likely due to systemic fibrosis, an autoimmune disorder which affects her breathing. After she is warded in a hospice because of her rapidly worsening health, vascular dementia causes her to forget the frequent visits by her husband and deepens her feelings of loneliness.
BEFORE WE FORGET observes how dementia slowly and subtly stresses both families. It also depicts candid moments of joy amid the quiet suffering they have to endure.