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My Father’s House: A Journey of Love and Memory (2017)

Hannah Reimann’s nonfiction short is a video diary of the final four years in the life of her father, Dr. Peter Reimann, whose life was slowly weakened by dementia.

The German-born Dr. Reimann served as a medic in the German Army during World War II – the film briefly states he was anti-Nazi, but never goes into depth on his war record. He married Korean psychoanalyst Dr. Myunghee Kim in 1957, eventually settling in New Jersey. Dr. Kim’s death in a car accident during a 1996 vacation in Chile was an emotional loss from which Dr. Reimann never truly recovered, and the sense of melancholy resonates throughout his on-camera footage. When asked during a birthday what it means to turn 89, he responds, “You didn’t die at the right time.”

The film is an often painful observation of Dr. Reimann’s slow physical and intellectual deterioration, particularly as he become heavily reliant on a housekeeper’s care and his mobility is significantly limited. The filmmaker rues having to sell her father’s home, and the sight of a wrecking crew tearing down the old structure is more than a little symbolic of the dementia tearing down Dr. Reimann.

Running less than a half-hour, the film provides a compelling glimpse on the grueling effects of dementia, both on the patient and the caregivers. It is an extremely moving and heartbreaking experience to behold.