Paz! Mother, Son, Blind Aunt

What happens when a blunt construction contractor agrees to permanently care for two elderly, sick women in his living room? Everything. Paz! Mother, Son, Blind Aunt is a documentary film, which explores the existence of a God, the timing of death, the fragile nature of life, and the struggle to keep it going in one small suburban home near New Orleans. In truth the film is about the enduring American family. Vicente Paz is a 63-year old Ecuadorian immigrant who has lived in the United States most of his life. In his living room he works overtime to care for his elderly mother with Alzheimer’s and his blind aunt who is mentally troubled. On a daily basis the old women plead with God to let them die. Despite this burden and his responsibilities Vicente is also at the core of a community of downtrodden friends: alcoholics, drug addicts, disabled neighbors and retirees. Through his help he takes on their struggles as his own.
The film profiles Vicente's humor, his strength, his eccentric worldview, and the daily struggle to keep hope alive. Paz! is touching, odd, chaotic and funny. His beer-drinking friend in Mardi Gras beads continuously speculates about the intervention of God. Vicente challenges the notion that you can’t take care of your elderly family at home. But the film also casts a stark light on the injustices and inequalities faced by working class Americans under a health care system that often puts them last. Vicente Paz pointedly predicts that a revolution is coming in America. The outlines of that revolt are apparent in the broken, messy and life affirming relationships that are at the heart of this film.

  • Don Downey
    Time the Barrel: Death and Life in Vietnam
  • Don Downey
  • Don Downey
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Television
  • Runtime:
    58 hours 24 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    September 9, 2016
  • Production Budget:
    80,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    720p and 1080i
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Don Downey
Distribution Information
  • Don Downey
    Country: United States
Director Biography - Don Downey

Don Downey is a documentary film director and writer. He began his career as a broadcast reporter/producer and moved into independent filmmaking covering issues of climate change, urban resiliency and recovery, higher and secondary education, and public health. Downey won the Portland Film Festival Documentary prize for his film about six Marines and their combat experience in Vietnam. His film subjects include documentaries on sea level rise, sustainable cities, the elderly, coal mining on the Hopi Indian reservation, nuclear disposal, and Katrina recovery. His poetry has also been published in literary journals.

This film, Paz! Mother, Son, Blind Aunt was produced, shot, written and edited by Don Downey.

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Director Statement

I met Vicente Paz on Thanksgiving Day. My wife and I were delivering turkey dinners and he opened his door with a big smile and a huge welcome. He was laughing and gregarious, enthusiastic, and full of life. He asked us if we wanted to meet his family, if we wanted a Coke, and could we spend some time? His granddaughter was feeding her grandmother, his blind aunt was wandering through the living room in a bathrobe, and the house was complete chaos. The TV blasted Spanish music at full volume. The room was filled to the brim with wheelchairs, hospital beds, a portable toilet, desks and chairs, lights and magazines, old electronics, cooking paraphernalia, diapers…and a portrait of Jesus. I felt I had walked into a story that represented the contemporary American experience in all its messy, life-affirming dimensions. Here was a man taking care of two seriously ill elderly women who was none the worse for wear. In fact Vicente seemed to gain energy for his burdens.

Later, as we began filming, I learned more and more about Vicente, his mother who had Alzheimer's and his aunt who had signs of schizophrenia and was blind. No problem was too difficult for him to tackle. When they visited the doctor Vicente had to physically pick up his mother to transfer her from her wheelchair to his car. He was frugal with his grocery purchases but proudly spiced up his cost effective Ragu with fresh vegetables. And each day he sparred with his mother over her desire to die. Again and again she said she “wanted to go home,” and repeatedly he told her it was up to God when she would die.
I also learned about Vicente’s community of friends – a down and out group of alcoholics, drug addicts, retirees, and disabled neighbors. All of them relied on Vicente in one way or another to get through the day. He counseled them toward sobriety, he repaired their homes, and he offered his alcoholic buddy his couch for more than a year when he ran out of money. Vicente is unusually capable, full of strength, a bit eccentric and certainly blunt, but always clear about his daily duty: to care for others and to make the world a little better. At times he could be angry and short with his mother but I understood his frustration. And hers. She also would become frustrated and vent her anger. It wasn’t always pretty…it was just beautiful day to day.