Dear Grandma, It’s been an honor…


Original Photo by Henry DeSantos,
Updated & Edited by Robert DeSantos Jr.

So today was my school’s film festival, and my piece was shown. Basically it is a Trailer for a documentary I’ve been working on for my senior thesis. The topic I chose is one I feel often gets thrown under the rug and many people don’t like to talk about it. I chose to showcase my Grandmother’s story and how she’s been living with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s something close to my heart and I wanted to shine a light on it. Partly because I wanted it to serve as an awareness video for those who don’t know much about it, and partly because I wanted it to serve as a comfort to those who do know, so that they know they are not alone.

It was an experience shooting this, because even though she is my Grandmother, I don’t think I even understood what it is like for her everyday, and for those who take care of her on a daily basis. And so by doing this it gave me a better understanding, it also allowed me to give my Grandmother a voice of her own, a voice that  has been taken.

When I first decided to do this project, I was really reserved. I was unsure about how I should go about it and I was worried I didn’t have enough experience to do her story justice. I didn’t want to step on any toes, and I didn’t want to do anything that may be misconstrued. I wanted to depict the situation for what it truly is, I didn’t want to take it and make it something it wasn’t. So I was really adamant about asking my family to let me know if they were at all uncomfortable at any time.

At first, I was a little worried that the voice over would be taken out of context, because she is unable to truly tell us herself, but what I was able to do was incorporate things she said when she could still convey her feelings. I had a long conversation with my aunts (her daughters) and they were able to tell me things she would tell them in the early stages. So that became the basis for the voice over and then I just tried my best to put myself in her shoes and write from her perspective as best I could.

Because the truth is no one knows what it is she’s thinking, what it is she’s feeling, if she sees things crystal clear, or if the world is just a bit blurry. There really is no true way to judge that. So I had to do my best and give her the voice I thought she would have. Because regardless the life that she was so used to has completely changed and that change is something that sadly, none of us can control and that none of us can reverse.

530723_10100699668141507_1409303760_nThroughout this process, I had the most amazing support system. My brother Rob, was my cameraman and cinematographer and all in all right hand man. Anything I didn’t know how to convey he was there to give me guidance, and being that he’s ridiculously handy most of my equipment came from things he’s made himself; steady cam, shoulder rig, slider etc. I honestly don’t think I could have done this without him, and because it was such a family oriented topic, I wouldn’t have trusted anyone else to help me. If I could have brought him to my film festival with me, I would have because he deserves just as much credit as I do. So Thanks Bro 😀

Every cut I would make I would come home and play it for my parents and my brother. And I was constantly editing and fine tuning because I believe if my name is going on something that means this much to me and my family, I knew it needed to be everything and more, I knew I needed to give it my all. It’s not to say that it’s perfect, my professor always says “a work of art is never done.” And I truly do believe that. But at the same time, I recognized the point in time, when I knew I needed to let it go, let it breathe, and let it be what it needs to be. The first time it was shown outside my eyes and my family’s eyes, was when my professor viewed it in class to judge the progressive stage of it. And her reaction was really humbling. She was tearing up and said it was beautiful. And at that point I thought that was the best compliment it could get. However, she really lobbied for me  to push myself to put it in the film festival. I was a bit reserved but after showing it in my class, and seeing how they responded to it with such kind feedback, it gave me the motivation to put it in the festival.

To say that having your work displayed on a huge screen in front of a room full of people is nerve wracking is a complete understatement. Especially when your work is so personal and so close to your heart. But the response I got was even more humbling than any other I’ve heard so far. Each time my piece is viewed the end is met by complete silence. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so many mixed emotions in my life. It feels like an eternity, when it’s only a mere few seconds. It’s awkward because it’s difficult to judge what your audience thinks. But then the claps start and it’s truly a great feeling.

It’s a whirlwind to have people personally come up to you and tell you that your work is appreciated. It’s something I didn’t expect and I don’t know how to respond! I had one girl come up to me and tell me she cried because she understands it all because she has to take care of her dad. And that made every 4-6  hour editing day I spent in school for the past 2 months, all worth it. That was my goal, to reach someone. And to know I was able to do that was a huge accomplishment for me. This experience may have been difficult, may have been stressful, may have been emotional, and a whole lot of worrying was done, but in the end all of that only contributed to the fact that telling my grandmother’s story the best way I knew how, has been a complete honor. I thank my family and all those involved with this documentary for allowing me this honor.


Photo by Robert DeSantos Jr.


Photo by Henry DeSantos, Edited by Robert DeSantos Jr. 

In the words of my Grandma

Vai Com Deus” ….

Go With God” 


*The Documentary has been recently completed*

3 thoughts on “Dear Grandma, It’s been an honor…

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