We are delighted to be partnering with Dublin International Film Festival (DIFF) to cover the films featuring in this year’s programme. 
DIFF 2024 runs 22nd February – 2nd March. Explore the programme and get tickets here.

Over non-alcoholic pints in the IFI last month, Film Ireland spoke with director Ross Killeen and artist Asbestos about their upcoming Reel Art Feature, which will be playing to a sold-out audience this Monday as part of Dublin International Film Festival. Playing with the expectations of the form, Ross’s unconventionally structured documentary, Don’t Forget to Remember, explores the day-to-day reality of living with Alzheimer’s. 

The two are accomplished in their respective fields. As a prolific artist, Asbestos has been producing street art since 2003, using his iconic masks to convey an array of narratives and emotions. His works have been displayed worldwide, and he was nominated for Best International Street Art 2021 for a mural that drew attention to the housing crisis in Ireland. Ross’ 2021 directorial debut, feature documentary, Love Yourself Today, centred on the music of Damien Dempsey and had a nationwide cinematic release in Ireland. The film was nominated for an IFTA and also played all over the UK, New York and Australia.

Having both worked on the festival circuit, this creative duo knew each other for some time before embarking on this project. “The genesis of this was an exhibition that was staged in Hugh Lane for Culture Night. Based on Joseph Beuys’ work, it involved people destroying my work, these blackboards that had images and memories of my mum. People could take a duster and wipe them.” Asbestos talks about their connection. “Ross was one of the first people in. One of the things he wrote on the blackboards was ‘don’t forget to remember’. After that, we started a conversation about the fact that we shared a lot of experiences.” 

In 2019 Ross lost his mother to Alzheimer’s and agreed with Asbestos; the representation and talking points around the condition were so restricted. Ross discusses the struggles he faced during this period, “When my mum had dementia, it was a real conversation killer. Nobody wants to talk to you about that. It’s like: ‘Please change the subject. Let’s talk about something else.’ This was quite lonely.” With the Reel Art Fund deadline – a scheme that bridges art and film – around the corner, Ross and Asbestos decided to work together in telling this personal story and to create a space where a constructive discourse on the topic can begin. 

“People don’t really know what to say to you. Alzheimer’s and losing your memory is a terrifying thing for people to comprehend.” With a condition that affects so many people, Ross wanted to set down a set of rules for the film from the application stage. “First and foremost, we wanted to make something that people can be comfortable talking about, to have that conversation, to not shy away from it or sugar coat it in any way.” Representation matters, and authenticity was at the core of Ross and Asbestos’ vision for this film; the plan was to sit in the room with Asbestos’s mum and dad and observe what life is for a carer and someone living with dementia. Ross added, “I know what my dad went through caring for my mum, and not a lot of people know what that’s like. They don’t see the day to day and how it affects the family and everyone around them. That was rule number one. We don’t interrupt anything, just observe.”

Coming from a background of graffiti and street art, Asbestos notes the transience of his work, and how this links in with the theme of the narrative, “You put it out, and it’s destroyed in days, or minutes. We live in a world in which art is considered massively valuable, yet, actually, there’s no intrinsic value in it. It’s just an object, so it’s only a perceived value.” Asbestos stresses how the focus of his exhibition was in provoking a response and shares how people had such an aversion to altering the paintings and chalk drawings in any way. That was their purpose, yet people didn’t want to. “The act of destruction was a provocation for people to think about their memories and how important they are, how important they are to share, and how unimportant some of the things that we attach to ourselves are. We still remember those photos even if they got destroyed, just like we still remember those moments.”

Ross adds, “This is about memories; it’s about shared memories and the fact that all of these photographs are usually opened after somebody dies or after somebody’s house has been emptied. We’re doing that now so you’re remembering all the good things.” Asbestos stresses that the intention was not to create something maudlin. “There’s an amazing thing in the collective memory of family, and this is a huge part of this film. There’s a hopefulness to it. We end up asking the questions that we so often feel awkward about asking.” Asbestos talks about the details and wonders he learned about over the course of filming, that he never would have known otherwise, little pieces of his mother’s past, or details about his parents’ wedding. And it certainly is food for thought, making you appreciate those you have in your life…

“The guy grading film, Paul, ended up ringing his mum after watching it for the first time. We definitely didn’t want to create something that was just very tragic. Life is more nuanced than that.”

This is an undeniably moving film and a celebration of a lifetime of love and experience that pushes the boundaries of the documentary form with warmth across every frame. 

Don’t Forget to Remember premieres at 6:30pm on Monday, 26th February 2024 in the Irish Film Institute. 
DIFF 2024 runs 22nd February – 2nd March. Explore the programme and get tickets here.

Dublin International Film Festival (DIFF) is Ireland’s premier film event, dedicated to presenting the best in contemporary and classic world cinema. It brings the world to Ireland and showcases Ireland to the world. With a rich history spanning several decades, DIFF showcases a diverse selection of films, hosts industry events, and fosters a vibrant film culture in Dublin.

Over the past 22 years, it has screened more than 1,600 international films from over 52 countries. The Festival has hosted over 600 high profile guests, including Al Pacino, Angela Lansbury, Brendan Gleeson, Daniel Day-Lewis, Danny DeVito, Ennio Morricone, Joss Whedon, Julie Andrews, Kristin Scott Thomas, Stanley Tucci, and Stellan Skarsgård.

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Gemma Creagh is a writer, filmmaker and journalist. In 2014 she graduated with a First from NUIG’s MA Writing programme. Gemma’s play Spoiling Sunset was staged in Galway as part of the Jerome Hynes One Act Play series in 2014. Gemma was one of eight playwrights selected for AboutFACE’s 2021 Transatlantic Tales and is presently developing a play with the Axis Theatre and with the support of the Arts Council. She has been commissioned to submit a play by Voyeur Theatre to potentially be performed in Summer 2023 as part of the local arts festival. Gemma was the writer and co-producer of the five-part comedy Rental Boys for RTÉ’s Storyland. She has gone on to write, direct and produce shorts which screened at festivals around the world. She was commissioned to direct the short film, After You, by Filmbase and TBCT. Gemma has penned articles for magazines, industry websites and national newspapers, she’s the assistant editor for Film Ireland and she contributes reviews to RTE Radio One’s Arena on occasion.

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