June 20, 2018

Centre on Aging acknowledges resiliency in aging through film festival award

‘Such a good fit’: UCalgary Brenda Strafford Centre on Aging partners with THIRD ACTion Film Festival

Author

Michael Wood, O'Brien Institute for Public Health

The THIRD ACTion Film Festival included more than 30 films, including the Resiliency in Aging award-winner, Living While Dying, a compelling story of life, death and joy along the journey.

The THIRD ACTion Film Festival included more than 30 films, including Living While Dying.

Edis Jurcys

The THIRD ACTion Film Festival is a cinematic homage to growing old, a celebration of courage and resiliency along the journey from one life chapter to the next, and the only age-positive festival of its kind in Canada.

THIRD ACTion just wrapped its inaugural event of age-focused movies, documentaries, short films, discussions and awards, including the first-of-its-kind Resiliency in Aging award, sponsored by the Brenda Strafford Centre on Aging in the O’Brien Institute for Public Health at the Cumming School of Medicine.

“It’s such a good fit for us, we are so happy we connected with the Brenda Strafford Centre on Aging,” says Mitzi Murray, executive director of the Calgary-based THIRD ACTion Film Festival. The Centre on Aging at the University of Calgary is an aging-focused hub that lives and breathes the health and wellness of older Canadians, driving to support healthy aging and inform policy through research, education and outreach.

The event brought out hundreds of movie-goers for three days of celebrating life’s third act.

The event included more than 30 films, including the Resiliency in Aging award-winner, Living While Dying, a compelling story of life, death and joy along the journey.

The award, designed to celebrate film work that recognizes the creative adaptability of older individuals and considers how social resources influence resiliency, is unique among the age-positive film festivals of the world.

“The audiences of the THIRD ACTion Film Festival were challenged to think about the good and bad of aging. When we were approached about how we wanted to support them, we felt it would be a great idea to sponsor an award for a film that shows some aspect of resiliency in aging,” says Dr. David Hogan, MD, who was also a speaker for the short series You Gotta Friend In Me, which centred around caregiving.

The film festival brought out hundreds of movie-goers for three days of celebrating life’s third act.

The film festival brought out hundreds of movie-goers for three days of celebrating life’s third act

Hogan, the academic lead at the Centre on Aging, a pan-university hub housed within the O’Brien Institute, and Dr. Ann Toohey, PhD, the centre’s scientific co-ordinator, were looking for a way to build on the success of last year’s Resiliency in Aging event.

The Brenda Strafford Centre on Aging didn’t select the award — it was chosen by a panel of judges — but Hogan says the film is an example of resiliency in the face of adversity, in this case, one’s own mortality. The Centre on Aging hopes the award will be presented annually.

Living While Dying is a powerful exploration of subject matter often avoided in polite company, a glimpse into the lives of four terminally ill people and difficult conversations of end-of-life care.

Filmmaker Cathy Zheutlin says she was compelled to make the film when her mother’s partner was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

“He chose hospice at home, and this film ends up being a journey alongside four different people who chose home hospice care,” she says. “They all lived full lives up to the end, and that’s what this film is about, living fully.”

The journey forced Zheutlin to come to terms with her own mortality — heavy subject matter to be sure, she admits, but it doesn’t have to be.

“One of the people I filmed wrote comedy. It was black comedy. His first joke is, ‘Now when I go shopping at Costco I bring two lists, my shopping list and my will.’ It’s poignant to be finding humour at that time.”

The THIRD ACTion Film Festival wrapped on June 10, and Murray says she is already planning next year’s event and is in discussions with not-for-profit groups that could see the festival tour across Canada.

Dr. David Hogan, MD, is a professor in the departments of Medicine, Clinical Neurosciences and Community Health Sciences and the academic lead of the Brenda Strafford Centre on Aging. He is a member of both the O’Brien Institute and Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the Cumming School of Medicine.