Hero Film Festival & Awards, which works to shine a spotlight on depictions of heroism in film, is currently in its first quarterly cycle. Selected films for this first edition of the festival will be announced in September.
Meanwhile, we would like to spotlight one of the submitted films and filmmakers. Our own Nicholas Crawford (NC) interviewed director Eric Gordon (EG) of “When All That’s Left Is Love.”
Introducing “When All That’s Left Is Love”
When All That’s Left is Love is the emotionally gripping story of a wife’s determination to care for her Alzheimer’s-stricken husband in their home. With unprecedented, behind-the-scenes access, the film reveals the toll that the disease takes on families coping with Alzheimer’s disease, while also showcasing the power of love that sustains both patients and caregivers.
Filmmaker Eric Gordon
Eric Gordon is an award-winning director and producer who has exhibited his work at film festivals worldwide. Gordon holds a Masters of Fine Arts in Film Production from the University of Miami, as well as a Certificate in Documentary Arts from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. His non-profit fiscal sponsor is From the Heart Productions.
Over the past six years, Eric has produced, shot and directed the feature-length documentary When All That’s Left Is Love.
NC: Please discuss your approach to creating this documentary.
EG: For a four-year period, I moved in with the main subjects of When All That’s Left Is Love, my aging mother and father, one a distraught caregiver nearing a complete breakdown and the other an Alzheimer’s patient. In the day-to-day existence of a household that often felt in crisis, I was both a caretaker and a documentary filmmaker who was a “fly on the wall” during their heartbreaks, setbacks, moments of shared tenderness and small victories. Rather than offering a softer, gentler view, I chose to reveal the hard truths of the situation.
NC: If you feel comfortable doing so, please tell us about your parents and their relationship.
EG: My mother and father were both born in upstate New York and they met on a blind date. They were extremely loving parents who were married for 57 years.
NC: The bravery it takes to document your final days with a loved one is admirable. Can you describe the hardest moment during production?
EG: While I was filming, I wasn’t aware of how heartbreaking the scenes were. It wasn’t until I started watching the footage and logging it that I began to struggle. It took me a year to comb through the footage because it was so difficult to face. The hardest moment was on the cruise where my father expressed his love to my sobbing mother. Of course, my dad’s funeral was also very difficult to watch. This film brings me to tears even to this day.
NC: You had been your father’s secondary caregiver for quite a while before you decided to start documenting the experience. What made you decide to pick up the camera?
EG: My mother once called me at work to tell me that my father was “lost.” It was on this day that I found out he had Alzheimer’s. After he finally made it home, everything was different. I understood immediately that my parents’ home life had changed and that my mother was not prepared what was to come, so I decided to leave my job and move into my parents’ house to help care for my father.
I was my father’s secondary caregiver for years before my filmmaking senses kicked in. Suddenly I knew that something was happening that needed to be documented. The access I had been given allowed me to capture something that had never been captured on camera. And because I was, and had been a primary caregiver, the community surrounding my father trusted me.
NC: The film does a great job of mixing in glimpses of the past with the present struggle. Why was it important for you to include that footage?
EG: I once found a metal box filled with old reels of film. After disregarding it for years, I finally watched it. The footage was of my parents early in their relationship. I decided to have the footage restored using a service in British Columbia, Canada. Somehow, it ended up in Columbia, South America. Thankfully it was found and returned.
I believe the footage provides the audience with a real glimpse into the past. You can feel the true love between my parents. I think it was crucial to the emotional intensity of the last scene because, through the footage, the audience is reminded of a happier, simpler time.
NC: Both you and your mother are members of a widespread group of unsung heroes known as caregivers. Why doesn’t this group get the appreciation it deserves?
EG: Everyone is sympathetic to the Alzheimer’s patient but they forget that caregivers are working tirelessly every day to take care of their loved ones. Professionals become heroes because they are knowingly placed into the situation, but caregivers, the invisible heroes, are thrust into it.
NC: What do you think makes Hero Film Festival a good fit for “When All That’s Left is Love?”
EG: This documentary’s tagline is “Caregivers are the Real Heroes.” For me, this was the most important film festival submission. I feel the documentary is the perfect fit and I thank your submission team for the hard work they are doing to shed light on a niche that is often overlooked. It is incredible that there is a film festival that focuses solely on the heroes of the world.
NC: If nothing else, what is the one thing you hope audiences take away from this film?
EG: I hope to educate people by showing what happens to caregivers behind closed doors. I am having clinical trial specialists speak at every community screening so that we can give the caregivers and their patients some much-needed hope. Perhaps this film will shed light on the difficulties that caregivers face and prepare people for the challenges they may someday encounter.
Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. It is imperative that people join the National Institute of Aging funded clinical trials as that remains our best chance to find new treatments and ultimately a cure. Eric Gordon’s community engagement partners for this film are The Roskamp Institute and Dignity Memorial.