Filmmaker and CCA alumnus Banker White (MFA 1999) has traveled as far as West Africa in his journey to develop communities and tell stories. But his latest work originated rather closer to home. In his documentary The Genius of Marian, due for theatrical release in April 2014, he follows his mother, Pam, as she deals with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
“In 2008, seven years after my grandmother passed away after a battle with Alzheimer’s, my mom, Pam, announced that she was going to write a book about her. Marian Williams Steele was her mother and my grandmother. She was a well-known artist. I painted with her my whole childhood.
“As her only grandkid who identifies as an artist, I knew immediately that I was going to be involved. So I started going back home to Massachusetts twice a year to help my mom with the book and to archive Mana’s paintings.”
But what began as a collaborative mother-son book-writing project evolved into something very different, as Pam herself started to experience signs of dementia, and soon was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. “In 2009, I stayed at my parents’ house for three months, just to figure out what was going on,” says White. “It was clear that both my parents needed help. My mom was delusional and had periods of violence. I realized I needed to move home.”