You’re Looking at Me Like I Live Here and I Don’t

You’re Looking at Me Like I Live Here and I Don’t


About the Film

In Danville, California, the Traditions Alzheimer’s Care Unit houses 20 residents who are shepherded by caregivers through scheduled activities like balloon baseball and bingo. For most residents, life is routine. But for Lee Gorewitz, life is an odyssey. From the moment she wakes up, Lee is on a quest for something that she can neither articulate nor comprehend. Confined by the physical boundaries of the Care Unit, she scavenges for reminders of her past identity.

A total immersion into the fragmented day-to-day experience of Alzheimer’s disease, You’re Looking at Me Like I Live Here and I Don’t is the first documentary filmed exclusively in an Alzheimer’s care unit, told from the perspective of someone suffering from the disease. MORE

Lee's search is for more than a word, or a memory, or a familiar face. It is a quest for understanding. She wanders through her unit. She gazes through windows, examines other residents’ rooms, and strains to see outside the front entrance.

She scours family photographs in her bedroom, unable to identify herself in the pictures. Combing through the items in her closet, she mistakes an everyday outfit for her wedding dress. She finds a birthday card but cannot recognize that she is the “Mom” to whom the card is addressed. Exasperated and missing her children, Lee embraces a make-believe family of stuffed animals.

Although she lacks the ability to grasp memories, Lee’s attempts at recollection demonstrate unusual and poetic candor. Reflecting on her birthplace, she says, “Brooklyn, it’s right behind you.” Regarding her deceased husband, she professes, “How do I even say it? The air — was very good.” Considering love, she intones, “That’s a damn good thing to work with.”

When in good spirits, Lee consoles heartbroken women, kisses caregivers, and shakes a tail feather long after the music has stopped. But with no realistic option for leaving her unit, Lee gives in to frustration. She argues with a tablemate during lunch, kicks a bouncy ball at a decrepit man’s legs, and unapologetically tells a sickly woman that she is going to die.

With a past that is out of reach, Lee turns her attention to her present surroundings. Although she struggles to coexist with the other residents, she tries to accept her new home. On a final evening lap around the unit, Lee approaches her caregiver and says, “Now I’m going to my family. Aren’t you mine?”

Widowed, cloistered, and slowly undone by her inability to think or speak clearly, Lee has every reason to succumb to the expectations of her conditions. Instead, she defies despondency. When she breaks down, she rebuilds. When she loses words, she summons emotions. And, despite the small defeats of her efforts, she remains an exceptional and resilient soul.

Immersed in the confounding logic of Alzheimer’s, Lee’s story adheres to the discordant but never fully crippling rhythms of the disease. Here is one extraordinary woman who will not let us forget her, even as she struggles to remember herself.


The Filmmaker

A participant in the 2010-2011 SF Film Society FilmHouse Residency, Scott Kirschenbaum’s other projects include A Soapbox In Haiti, a speaker series that premiered on four Haitian television stations on the one-year anniversary of the earthquake, and Elementary Cool, a short fiction film that screened at Playworks’ Play On Conference in Fall 2010 and participated in the San Francisco Film Society’s FilmHouse Residency, and Filmmakers in the Classroom program in 2011.

Kirschenbaum previously completed the documentary Jumor: A Journey through Jewish Humor, about the role of humor in Jewish nursing homes around the country. He has written profiles of the elderly for the Yale Journal of Humanities in Medicine, performed stand-up comedy for nursing home residents, and served as a personal assistant to a screenwriter suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

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Film Credits

Director
Scott Kirschenbaum

Producers
Shane Boris
Scott Kirschenbaum

Director of Photography
Michael Sly

Editors
Stuart Sloan
Susie Lichter

Co-Producer
Gracey Nagle

Associate Producers
Kevin Crawford
Ken Fisher
John Givens
Stuart Sloan

Location and Production Supervisor
Karen Kelleher

Sound Design
Kevin Crawford

Sound Editor
Kevin Crawford
Philip Perkins

Rerecording Mixer
Philip Perkins

Original Music Composed by
Nadia Shihab

Music Engineer
Mark David Ashworth

Marketing and Outreach
Emily Hoover
Lauren Popper Ellis

Color Finishing
Gary Coates

Still Photography
Phillip Maisel

Graphic Design
John Givens
Anna Grace
Scott Green
Michelle Snow

Web Design
Vivek Bharathan
Ken Fisher
Phil Gorrindo
Jesse Gottesman
Michelle Snow

Post-Production Supervisor and Online Editor
Ben Zweig

Title Sequence Designer
Stefan Belavy

HD Mastering
Video Arts San Francisco

Pre-Production Consultants
Rachel Benson
Jesse Dana
Eryka Fiedler
Joe Genden
Colleen Hartman
Sam Hoffman
Sage Hyman
Anne Marsa
David May
Robert Poswall
Beth Powder
Rob Shilov
Jenais Zarlin

Post-Production Consultants
Herve Cohen
Sara Dosa
Tristan Gorrindo
Amanda Larson
Stosh Mintek
Matt Preis
Dalan McNabola
Ja Shia
Jeremy Solterbeck

Legal Counsel
Mount, Spelman & Fingerman
George Rush

Additional Music
"Tomcat Instrumental"
Written by Jef Scott and Al Lowe
Performed by JTML
Courtesy of First Frame Music and Justin Time Productions

Special Thanks
Troy Beaton
Maggie Bloom
Jonathan Blute
The Boris Family
Janice L Corran
The Crawford Family
Bob Dunn
Carol Elliott
Isaac & Michael Ellis
The Fleishhacker Foundation
Carol Goldman
The Gorewitz Family
Sarah Hill
The Kirschenbaum Family
Rabbi Debora Kohn
Rosie Legarsmeur
Joanna Moore
Sohalie Nagle and the Nagle Farm
Ben Newhouse
George Pfau
Joan and Richard Popper
Esther & Jacques Reutlinger Community for Jewish Living
Michael Ross and the Ross Family
San Francisco Film Commission
Suzanne Sloane
Synergos Institute
Underground Advertising
Elaine Zolfarelli

Filmed on location in Danville, California

Fiscal Sponsors
Fractured Atlas
San Franciso Film Society

This program was produced by You’re Looking At Me, LLC,
which is solely responsible for its content.

© 2012 You’re Looking At Me, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Do you know anyone who has struggled with Alzheimer’s disease?