Monday, November 16, 2015

Seen at the Austin Film Festival: Life on Juniper

One of the best short films I saw at the Austin Film Festival was a Canadian film titled, "Life on Juniper."

Here's one of images they use to promote the film.



As the image suggests, there is a little green man in the film. But I want to tell you why this is an amazing human film, despite the little green man.

But first a warning.  This is going to be a spoiler.  If you're about to see the film somewhere, don't read any further.

The film focuses on an older couple.  They have lived for years on a piece of property (on Juniper Lane) that might be a bit out in the country; big enough to have a large shed with years of junk stashed in it.  One night the husband wakes up and follows a sound, some ligh,t and sees that the back door is open and someone is - maybe - just shutting the door to the shed.

The next day, his wife nags him to clean out the shed and he pretends to do that in order to investigate.  Amid snatches of background TV news referencing various news that might be related to UFOs, etc., he goes into the shed.  And, he discovers the little green man.  Not exactly ET, but apparently friendly.  They have some limited interaction in which the little green man indicates that he comes from a galaxy far, far away.

The husband sees a man in a suit knocking a their door.  He sees the man looking around the property and taking pictures.  He attempts to hide the little green man from prying eyes.

At this point, I am sort of enjoying the ride but I'm about to think, jeez, another lame low-budget sci-fi flick.  Then everything changes.

The husband comes in and the wife is asking once again about cleaning out the shed so they can move.  The husband admits to being confused about the move -- there are boxes stacked here and there in the living room. The wife reminds him that they are selling the house and moving into assisted living since she can't manage it all by herself.

Suddenly the story turns inside out. It's a story about dementia.  It's a story about how dementia looks from inside the husband's experience.  The man with the camera was a real estate agent.  I was amazed.

I've done two films in which dementia was portrayed.  But I found the experience in Life On Juniper to be a brillant way to treat the problem; creative, imaginative, fun before being sad. 

I applaud filmmaker Mark Ratlazz.

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