Michelle Memran met playwright Maria Irene Fornes two decades ago. The plan was to interview Fornes, who has been called the greatest and least-known dramatist of our time, for an article on the relationship between playwrights and critics. The result was a long-lasting friendship and an award-winning feature documentary, which Memran will screen March 14 at FilmBar in Phoenix.
“Just as Irene didn’t set out to become a playwright, I never set out to become a filmmaker,” Memran said on the film’s website. The project started one afternoon in August 2003, when the two friends visited Brighton Beach with a Hi8 camera.
“Irene’s response to the camera and my response to filming her was a beautiful surprise for us both,” Memran said. “Initially the film was our way to keep the creative process alive in each of us, and the process — at least at the time — was very much the product.”
Fornes had written more than 40 plays, won nine OBIE awards and mentored thousands of playwrights across the globe. But she had stopped writing due to memory loss and was suffering from undiagnosed Alzheimer’s disease. “The Rest I Make Up” follows Fornes and her memories, weaving together the present with the past, all the while “moving mentor and student toward an ever-deepening connection in the face of forgetting.”
“Today I am able to see clearly the reason I stayed committed to the project years after I stopped filming (due to Irene’s advancing dementia),” Memran said. “The reason I kept working with the tapes, combing through hundreds of hours of footage, was because there was a story I had to tell. Eventually I met an editor — Melissa Neidich — who cared as deeply for the material as I did, and what we unearthed was a story about the power of friendship and creativity, and what it means to remain an artist through all the vicissitudes of one’s life.”
The film premiered one year ago at the Museum of Modern Art’s Doc Fortnight 2018 in New York, and since then it has won numerous awards, including AARP's inaugural Silver Image Award for a film that "exceptionally portrays an individual 50+ who is multidimensional and defies stereotypes." The New Yorker’s Richard Brody named it one of the best movies of 2018 and in his review wrote, “The resulting film is a profound, tragic, yet joyful vision of art. It’s more than the portrait of an artist (or even of two); it’s a revelation and exaltation of the artistic essence, of the very nature of an artist’s life as an unending act of creation in itself.”
The ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre and the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing are hosting a screening of "The Rest I Make Up," at 6:30 p.m. March 14 at FilmBar in Phoenix. Memran will be in attendance and give a talk at the screening.
The Desert Southwest Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association also will be at the event to answer questions and give information about the local chapter.
This event is free and open to the public, but registration for a free ticket is encouraged. If space allows for walk-ups, they will be accommodated on the night of the event.