Soft Lights and Silver Shadows

A family reconstructs the fragments of memories forgotten by a loved one, in this kaleidoscopic animated documentary.

  • Ian Kelly
  • Project Type:
    Animation, Documentary, Short
  • Runtime:
    15 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    June 7, 2023
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Shooting Format:
    Animation, 16mm
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
    Yes - Northwestern University
Director Biography - Ian Kelly

Ian Kelly is an award-winning documentary filmmaker who uses animation as means to enliven stories of personal and historical memory. Ian’s films have played at numerous film festivals across the country, including the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, and Cleveland International Film Festival. Ian has edited films about dinosaurs for the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, and films on Oprah for the National Museum of African American History and Culture. In his review for the NYT, Wesley Morris said of the latter that it featured “…one of the most charming pieces of editing you’re going to see.” Ian was the Assistant Editor on the short film, The Neighbors’ Window, winner of the 2020 Academy Award for Best Live Action Short. Ian has an MFA in Documentary Media from Northwestern University.

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Director Statement

When I was 7, my Grandpa, Al Zippay, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. For 10 years, he survived while his memory deteriorated — and I grew up witnessing and questioning what it means to lose so much of one’s self. My family — my mom and her two sisters most of all — cared for him with a profound tenderness. Through frustrations and pain. They found humor and maintained a deep love.

My grandpa was the son of Czechoslokian immigrants, who lived his whole life in the industrial community of Sharon, PA. He was a WWII veteran, serving in one of the first portable surgical hospitals — an experience that left him with a profound abhorrence for violence. He had a long career as the manager and voice of a local radio station. He was different from other men I knew at the time: curious, quiet and compassionate.

When he died, I didn't mourn him. Alzheimer's disease provokes a state of perpetual grief. Al, and our family, had endured daily losses — of memory, of self — the loss of life was only the latest. Now, a decade later, I find myself thinking of him. Of these many losses. And of what can still be recovered.

As a witness to the effects of memory loss I feel particularly attuned to the importance of preserving personal memories. As Sharon, PA, Al’s home, continues its de-industrialization and population decline, more and more memories of the community are lost. This happens in communities and families across the country. Every act of personal storytelling and memory preservation is important and radical. It’s an attempt to work against systems, biological or social, that try to erase our shared histories.