Much Ado About Dying— Finding humor and humanity in the final act
In this post-film conversation co-presented by Bellevue Literary Review, director Simon Chambers and Dr. Danielle Ofri will discuss eldercare outside of traditional family structures, and about finding the humor and humanity at the end of life.
Looking after his madcap gay actor uncle, filmmaker Simon received a profound lesson on dying happy.
Simon is shooting a film in India when his Uncle David calls him with a message of doom: “Come back to London, I think I may be dying.” What the viewer doesn’t yet know is that David is a Shakespeare-loving drama queen who has grown old on a diet of attention and applause. But Simon finds his own life drastically interrupted when he returns to try and sort everything out. David has no intention of dying.
As the months turn into years David accidently makes himself homeless, and refuses to go into a care home. While Simon tries to figure out how he can help his anarchic and spirited uncle, David sits in his kitchen reciting King Lear, “It’s the play about an old man becoming infirm, losing his mind and giving his kingdom away” he tells his nephew. Simon soon discovers that his uncle too has been giving away thousands of pounds to a hot young “carer”. As David’s life echoes the play that he loves so much, Simon is left with the challenge of trying to help David find a good ending to the drama that his own life has become.
Photo credit: Tiffin Films, Soilsiú Films
About the Speaker
British filmmaker Simon Chambers is a director, cinematographer, screenwriter, and producer. As a director, he has previously made two documentaries: EVERY GOOD MARRIAGE BEGINS WITH TEARS (2006), a short documentary about two Bangladeshi sisters born and raised in London who have weddings arranged for them against their will; and COWBOYS IN INDIA (2009), in which Chambers, with two local guides, searches for answers amidst conflicting allegations between a tribe fighting to protect their sacred mountain against multinational mining moguls from London.
Danielle Ofri, MD, PhD, is Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Bellevue Literary Review, a nonprofit organization that explores the intersection of healthcare and the arts, and a Clinical Professor in the Department of Medicine at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine. Ofri writes about about medicine and the doctor–patient relationship for The New Yorker, the New York Times, and The Atlantic. Her essays have also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, Slate Magazine, the New England Journal of Medicine, the Lancet, CNN.com, and on National Public Radio. Ofri’s essays have been selected twice for inclusion in the Best American Essays series and also for Best American Science Writing. She received the McGovern Award from the American Medical Writers Association for preeminent contributions to medical communication, and the National Humanism Award from the Gold Foundation. She was also an editor of the medical textbook The Bellevue Guide to Outpatient Medicine: An Evidence-Based Guide to Primary Care, which won a best medical textbook award. Danielle Ofri received her PhD in pharmacology from NYU School of Medicine, where she worked with Eric J. Simon, PhD, to study the biochemistry and signal transduction of opiate receptors. She is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and a recipient of an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Curry College in Boston.