Storytelling for Change

Categories: Advocacy, Care Partners, Need to Know|By |Published On: |

THIRD ACTion Film Festival aims to end dementia stigma through highlighting dementia-centred films.

This article was written by a guest contributor, and the views, thoughts and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author.

“Change your attitude, young lady!”

I am not saying I was a wild child, but my mom lobbed this phrase at me on more than one occasion as I was growing up, and perhaps once or twice as an adult. And now here I am, over five decades later, finding out how profound and prophetic my mom was.

Changing my attitude, it turns out, can help me as well as the people I love.

More than eight years ago, my family noticed that my mom’s memory was deteriorating. How long she had managed to hide it from us, we don’t know. It took us another two years to talk about it as a family and another year for one of us to ask “Mom, how are you coping?”

For years, my mom suffered and dealt with her worry and grief alone — all because we were afraid to say the D-word, to admit that it might be that and afraid of what our mom was going to become. We made it about the disease, not about mom.

We were a good family, a loving family, but this is what the disease and its stigma can do. I have been meeting my mom “where she is” for the past five years and my dad is benefitting from the lessons learned with mom, as he is now on his own dementia journey.

If it is all about attitude, then it’s time to heed my mom’s wise words.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

To reduce stigma, we need to remove the fear that drives the current societal attitudes. To do so, we need to educate, and there are many ways to do that.

Dementia and aging share a problem: they are underrepresented in media and in the imaging out there, which is predominantly negative and medicalized.

Those beautiful baby boomers, who have been agents of change since they came of age, have started to agitate on the issue of agism. Now we need to do the same for dementia. We need to show that there is still joy, vibrancy and possibility while living with dementia.

THIRD ACTion Film Festival was created to guide an age-positive culture shift. We believe in the power of storytelling to effect change. Since our first festival in 2018, there has been a screening each year on dementia and caregiving. We have shown some tough films, but we have also shown film with possibility and joy. And we have hosted some wonderful speakers after our films.

Ramping up for our fifth festival in June, we have solidified the film and speaker program but would like to offer up a few films from past festivals for your consideration.

Take a moment to watch and imagine your mom yelling at you, “Change that attitude!” That’s what I do.

Our Time Machine by S. Leo Chiang and Yang Sun (2019)

When influential Chinese artist Maleonn realizes that his father, an accomplished Peking Opera director, has started his dementia journey, he invites his father to collaborate on his most ambitious project to date — a haunting, magical, autobiographical stage performance called Papa’s Time Machine, featuring life-sized mechanical puppets.

  • View trailer here.
  • Watch full film on Kanopy (free with most library cards).

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Roberto + Sybela by Zach Jordan (2017)

A 4-minute documentary from the perspective of Roberto, Sybela’s husband and caregiver. His amazing attitude and resiliency are inspiring. He doesn’t let Sybela’s dementia drive or victimize their lives.

  • Watch online (scroll to mid-page).

Forever, Chinatown, directed by James Q. Chan (2016)

A documentary about the unknown, self-taught 81-year-old artist, Frank Wong, who spent the past four decades recreating his fading memories by building romantic, extraordinarily detailed miniature models of the San Francisco Chinatown rooms of his youth. This film is a meditation on memory, community and preserving one’s own legacy.

  • View trailer here.
  • Watch full film on Kanopy (free with most library cards).

Come see the possibilities, dream your dream and cultivate the resiliency to age well.


Check out the festival website for more information and sign up for the festival newsletter.


Mitzi Murray is a Calgary-based Jill-of-all-trades with experience in the hospitality industry, the corporate compliance world, academia, senior housing and construction. She has dabbled in pottery and knitting and believes variety is the spice of life.

In 2017, Murray founded the annual THIRD ACTion Film Festival to celebrate aging and older adults, to help make an age-positive culture shift and to empower people to envision their best possible "third act".