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Our Time Machine Discussion Guide

Discussion Prompts

PROMPT ONE: STARTING THE CONVERSATION

Immediately after the film, you may want to give people a few quiet moments to reflect on what they have seen. You could pose a general question (examples below) and give people some time to themselves to jot down or think about their answers before opening the discussion. Alternatively, you could ask participants to share their thoughts with a partner before starting a group discussion.

  • If you were going to tell a friend about this film, what would you say?
  • Describe a moment or scene from the film that you found particularly striking or moving. What was it about this scene that was especially compelling for you?
  • If you could ask anyone in the film a single question, whom would you ask and what would you want to know more about?
  • Did anything in the film surprise you?
  • What aspects of the film felt relatable? What felt familiar? If nothing, then what felt new and unfamiliar?
  • What general questions do you have?

PROMPT TWO: PERFORMANCE AS PROCESS AND ARCHIVE

  • In what ways did this film ask you to think differently about collaboration?
  • In what ways can we understand being a member of a family as a collaborative process?
  • How can participation in community, family, and relationships already be viewed as a creative process?
  • How, in this film, do you see art imitating life? In what ways does the theatrical performance soften the edges of difficult aspects of life and mortality?
  • How do you understand art, or the arts, to be a helpful mode of processing life, death, and loss?
  • In what ways does Maleonn’s experiences of processing his father’s illness remind you of an experience you, or someone you love, has gone through? Were you able to have any new insights into the experiences of aging, loss, and processing difficult emotions?
  • What are some strengths of using the arts to process larger cultural movements and events?
  • In what ways does theater serve as an historical archive that gives insights into larger human experiences? How might theater, or the arts, provide more honest connection and reflection in regards to cultural events and movements?
  • What can art allow us the freedom to explore that traditional modes of research and expression cannot?

PROMPT THREE: DEMENTIA, MEMORY CARE, & CAREGIVING

  • What about Maleonn’s approach to caring for his father felt the most vulnerable? In what ways does the relationship between father and son expose the dynamic emotional ties that are being challenged as memory fades?
  • What is the role of memory in your life? How can memory function in both positive and negative ways?
  • How do you respond to the H.G. Well’s quote that memories are time machines that take us back? What time machines do you rely on? What is the function of those memory/time machines?
  • In what ways can dreams also serve as time machines?
  • How does the passage of time function in this film? In what ways does time encourage Maleonn and his family to act with a sense of urgency? What does this relationship with time reveal?
  • Have you, or someone you love, ever been in the role of caregiver? What struggles did you encounter? What new questions emerged as caregiving responsibilities increased?
  • What are some ways that compassion and love were exhibited in this film? Were acts of kindness and care always recognized or received as that? In what ways can intentions of care become complicated when supporting someone who is suffering?
  • What are some tricky aspects of navigating care when it comes to treating someone suffering with dignity and agency, while also recognizing (from the outside) symptoms that the person in need of care may not?
  • In what ways do memories belong to the entire family, but also to individual family members? How does this change the way you’ve considered what memories serve to do for us in our lives?
  • What is the use of remembering when forgetting might be easier? Is the struggle to remember – despite difficult circumstances worth it? Why or why not?
  • What did this family’s journey teach you about responsibility for one another and responsibility to ourselves?
  • Maleonn used art as a way to make an incredibly difficult experience more beautiful. What is the most remarkable aspect of the work that Maleonn generated in this film? In what ways do you think the creation of “Papa’s Time Machine” was healing or helpful for Maleonn?
    • Do you think art and creative processing has the power to heal or help in times of difficulty? In what ways?

CLOSING QUESTION/ACTIVITY

At the end of your discussion, to help people synthesize what they’ve experienced and move the focus from dialogue to action steps, you may want to choose one of these questions:

  • What did you learn from this film that you wish everyone knew? What would change if everyone knew it?
  • If you could require one person (or one group) to view this film, who would it be? What would you hope their main takeaway would be?
  • Complete this sentence: This story is important because ______
  • What question(s) do you think the filmmakers were trying to answer? Do you think they found the answers they were looking for?
  • Complete this sentence: I am inspired by this film (or discussion) to ________.