Judith Helfand on Robert West, “One of My Greatest Teachers and Beloved Comrades”

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Robert West, the co-founder of Working Films, passed away peacefully on the morning of June 6, 2013. He was diagnosed with brain cancer last fall. Judith Helfand, West’s co-founder at Working Films, posted this message to Facebook the day before West passed away. She allowed us to share it here with the documentary filmmaking community.

Robert West’s room (Photo by Judith Helfand)

Dear Friends & much beloved Doc Community

Please send your love, your kindest thoughts and what ever else you have in your heart to our dear friend, my comrade of many years, Robert West.

I had the great joy (really) of being with him this past weekend. He could talk – we could laugh – I got to say Thank You.

But in the last 24 hours, Robert has moved into what the hospice nurse is calling the ‘zone’ or “the transition” [like "going through the mouth of the tunnel"].

He has told us over and over that he is at peace with this and ready. I am told that he is not able to talk anymore, but very peaceful, without pain, and showing no signs of discomfort.

He has shown us how to live your death, build community every step of the way, be awake, loving and present and maintain dignity (along with esthetics, cut flowers and cookies for guests, wonderful sheets and attention to every detail).

Please hold Robert in love and light. He is in the comfort of a home he curated and loved, that is still warm from dinner parties and scrabble nights – where you can still hear his laughter and still taste his excellent cooking.

I took this picture on Sunday – when in fact the light was wonderful and he was asleep, beloved friends were in and out, the peonies were fragrant and all words on all hearts were shared.

Robert West you will always be one of my greatest teachers and beloved comrades! Presente, Bravo, go gently we love you.

POV Guest Blogger
POV Guest Blogger
POV (a cinema term for "point of view") is television's longest-running showcase for independent non-fiction films. POV premieres 14-16 of the best, boldest and most innovative programs every year on PBS. Since 1988, POV has presented over 300 films to public television audiences across the country. POV films are known for their intimacy, their unforgettable storytelling and their timeliness, putting a human face on contemporary social issues.