‘Genius of Marian’ a poignant look at Alzheimer’s

Ed and Pam White (photo by Banker White).

The decline of a parent can be devastating — so why would a filmmaker turn a camera on his mother as she falls prey to Alzheimer’s disease? “It’s a project to tell your mom that you love her,” director Banker White says to his mother during the course of “The Genius of Marian.”

Lovingly, White and his co-director and wife, Anna Fitch, trace the evolution of Pam’s affliction (the same one that took hold of her own mother, Marian, who was institutionalized because of the disease).

Marian was a home-schooled painter who captured her family in oils, and we see images of Pam as a playful child and as a beautiful young woman on the beach. The stunning artwork adds a joyful aspect to a sad story of disease as legacy, in a Kennedy-like family.

A comfortable home in the Boston suburbs, a caring family and a sacrificing husband barely lessen the tragedy of confusion, memory loss and increasing debilitation after Pam’s diagnosis at age 61. She kept her disease a secret as long as she could, but soon was calling macadamia nuts “acamanias.”

Longtime friends suggest that since lovely, popular Pam was the best at everything she did, she had farther to fall from the Alzheimer’s. Taking a leave from work to care for her full-time, husband Ed (obviously still in love) is the hero of the film.

A poignant contrast is made with two sequences. When Pam was a pretty, young model she appeared in a commercial for Arrid deodorant. More recently, unable to apply deodorant on herself, Ed swipes some under her arms before performing his daily ritual of dressing her.

The film may have the look and feel of home movies, but archival and new footage and shots of Marian’s paintings are edited masterfully together to tell the story of a vibrant life and a much-loved woman.


Directed by Banker White & Anna Fitch


84 minutes

Screening at the Tribeca Film Festival

4/21 at 7:30pm, 4/23 at 6:45pm and 4/26 at 3pm

At Clearview Cinemas Chelsea (260 W. 23rd St., btw. 7th & 8th Aves.)

For tickets & info, call 646-502-5296 or visit tribecafilm.com/filmguide