Mindy Lucas

Alzheimer's documentary hits close to home at Beaufort Film Fest

A scene from "The Sum Total of Our Memory"
A scene from "The Sum Total of Our Memory"

Screenings are in full swing at the eighth annual Beaufort International Film Festival as filmgoers pack the theater at the Beaufort Center for the Arts and settle in for a long day of cinema. 

One especially well-attended film Friday covered a topic close to many members of Beaufort County’s older community. 

“The Sum Total of Our Memory,” is 30-minute documentary about couples affected by a recent diagnosis of early Alzheimer’s. 

Director Barbara Klutinis made the documentary after her own husband was diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s. Klutinis joined an Alzheimer’s support group and met others in her situation, eventually deciding to follow three couples and showing how they come to terms with their changing roles.  

In her director’s statement, Klutinis said, “With this film, I wanted to put a face on this disease that has so often been out of the public eye.”

The film is a sweet, funny and honest look at how relationships change when someone starts losing his or her memory. It shows what Alzheimer’s is like for the one diagnosed and as well as from the point of view of the caretaker. 

One of the caregivers tells his son, “Spend time with us now, because Mom’s going away, little by little.”

Some couples are optimistic, while others, often the caregivers, feel frustrated and defeated.

“We believe caregivers are victims of the disease as well,” said Arlene Hull, the executive director at the Alzheimer’s Family Services of Greater Beaufort. Hull was at the screening and handed out purple wristbands to promoting Alzheimer’s awareness. “Through awareness is the only way we’ll be able to come up with a cure,” she said. 

The documentary hit especially close to home for Linda Elmore, whose mother also suffered from Alzheimer’s.

“I thought it was extremely well done,” said Elmore, who has been coming to the film festival since it first began.  Elmore said the documentary was an accurate portrayal to what being a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s is really like. 

“In the beginning, you want to do anything it takes to help them,” she said.

Hull agreed it was an accurate portrayal of the early stages for caregivers, but that the situation will change and become extremely challenging as the disease gets worse.

“It just becomes more difficult over time,” she said.