‘GLORIA’ by Kim Blanck

2023 Dementia Spring Arts Impact Award recipient Kim Blanck writes/directs her debut film following a Chinese woman fighting dementia
‘GLORIA’ by Kim Blanck

What is GLORIA and how do you describe it? 

Gloria is a short film in which an aging Chinese woman living alone and fighting dementia symptoms discovers joy and purpose in the act of teaching herself Spanish. It’s a piece about memory loss, community, and an enduring love of learning. We shot it on 16mm film in the San Francisco Bay Area in November 2023; the project is currently in post-production.

While I’ve written a few short films and web series, my career thus far has been mostly as an actor: I’ve performed across the country at various regional houses including Berkeley Rep, the Alley Theatre, and American Repertory Theater; and in a handful of off-Broadway productions, including Dave Malloy’s Octet. Gloria marks my first time as a writer-director and it’s been absolutely thrilling to explore the responsibilities and creative opportunities of this new role!

My experience as an actor has been a big part of creating this film. As actors, we’re physical beings, and I approached directing this story knowing what I wanted it to feel like: from discussing with designers to planning our shot list to rewriting aspects of the script. I learned on set that listening to my body and my gut is actually a huge part of the director’s art: Cinematographer Caitlin Machak and I watched the monitor and knew we got our shot based on how it felt to experience lead actress Emily Kuroda move, listen…even think!

Who initially inspired you to grapple with dementia? 

I wrote this script in May 2023 after 2 years of being my mom’s full-time caregiver, and was eager to explore the ways in which our elders fight to retain their identity and even a sense of joy as they age. Like Gloria, my mother lives in the California Bay Area, and earlier in her life, was a dedicated Spanish student at her local community college. It is my dream that one day she will fall in love with learning again, and Gloria is a telling of that exact dream.

While dementia is often viewed as a deeply sad circumstance—which it absolutely can be—it’s important for me as an artist and human to find the nuggets of levity and joy in even the heaviest moments of our lives.

Kim Blanck

How has working on dementia-related art changed you?

Frankly, engaging with this topic has inspired me to make even more work about dementia and aging! I spoke with many caregivers as I prepared to direct this film, and realized there are so many other fascinating, moving, meaningful stories out there. Gloria has only recently begun to face her declining memory, but I’m curious to explore stories about people and caregivers farther along the spectrum. While dementia is often viewed as a deeply sad circumstance—which it absolutely can be—it’s important for me as an artist and human to find the nuggets of levity and joy in even the heaviest moments of our lives.

What does it mean to you to have received the Dementia Spring Arts Impact Award? How will/has the award furthered your work?

I’m honored and excited to be a member of this cohort of artists who are creating new works of art in an effort to change the dementia narrative. And Dementia Spring has already been an excellent partner in the production of this film, with founder Dr. Marc Rothman weighing in on the script. 

The grant will contribute significantly to the film’s production and post-production costs. After editing the film and integrating sound design, music, and color correction, I plan to submit our first festival application in Fall 2024! It’s my hope that we can have a widespread festival run and have the opportunity to share this piece with filmgoing folks all over the country.

What advice do you have for other artists who are telling stories of dementia through their work?

Stay true to your unique vision! There are countless ways to tell a story about dementia and I encourage artists to tell the stories that are personal and specific to them.

This work is dedicated to: My mom and caregivers everywhere. 

Find more from Kim Blanck on her website and Instagram, and more on Gloria can be found on its website.

What is a Spotlight?

The Dementia Arts Spotlight promotes visual and performing artists who are grappling with dementia through original work or innovative arts programs. The Spotlight—in a Q&A format where artists describe the details and significance of their work or program—connects each artist to the Dementia Spring community. Find examples of prior Dementia Arts Spotlights here. Know of an artist whose work should be Spotlighted? Send them this link!

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