Vanishing: A Love Story

Vanishing: A Love Story is a documentary about award-winning novelist Cai Emmons and her loving, open-hearted journey towards death. In 2021, at the age of 70, Cai was diagnosed with ALS. Taking place in 2022, during the last six-months Cai’s life, the film is, first and foremost, a story about the agency of expression —having a voice to create a legacy in the world.

  • Sandra Luckow
    Sharp Edges, Belly Talkers, That Way Madness Lies... A World Within
  • Sandra Luckow
    In 2021, at the age of 70, Cai was diagnosed with ALS. Taking place in 2022, during the last six-months Cai’s life, Vanishing: A Love Story is, first and foremost, a film about the agency of expression —having a voice to create a legacy in the world.
  • Kat Vecchio
    The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales
  • Cai Emmons
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Feature
  • Genres:
    documentary, personal film, End of life, Health
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 30 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    December 15, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    918,853 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    4K smart phone techologies
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Sandra Luckow

Sandra Luckow (Producer - Director - Editor) is a Mexican-American filmmaker who founded Ojeda Films, Inc. in 2000 to bring a bi-cultural voice to independent film. She is known for Sharp Edges, Belly Talkers (1996 Sundance US competition) and the multiple award-winning, That Way Madness Lies… Sandra has worked at Warner Bros., and Universal in casting, network and cable news programs and daytime dramas. She taught documentary film production at Yale University, School of Art for 22 years as well as producing, screenwriting, camera, editing and acting for the camera at Columbia University, Barnard College, Wesleyan University, and Sarah Lawrence College. Her pedagogy includes democratizing accessibility to modes of filmmaking by using smart phone technologies and teaching all aspects of production. She has traveled and worked internationally giving workshops, most notably with the US State Department’s cultural exchange: Lines and Spaces. She is a member of the Director’s Guild of America and holds an MFA from NYU’s TIsch School of the Arts.

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Director Statement

I make intimate documentary portraiture of extraordinary people who confront challenging circumstances, whether willingly or unwillingly. The result of this work is a glimpse into some unfettered truths about humanity. My creative practice began with, “Sharp Edges,” a documentary about a then 15 year-old unknown Tonya Harding going to her first national figure-skating competition with little more than unmatched, raw potential. And my most recent documentary, “That Way Madness Lies…” chronicled my brother’s unvarnished struggles with paranoid schizophrenia as well his family’s failure to get him meaningful help.

With all my films, I immersed and embedded myself into the lives of my subjects. My creative practice is to give my subjects as much agency over the nature of their image as possible. Vanishing: A Love Story is a continuation of that process on a much greater intensity level. I promised Cai to film her “Death with Dignity” which she needed to schedule before ALS robbed her of her ability to self-administer. And now, as I move into post-production using AI technology to create her posthumous narration (with not only with her permission, but also her directive), I am challenged with my sense of obligation to “get it right” while having to bring a small army of collaborators and resources into the process.

My vision of success for this film will be a recognition of Cai, in all her complexity, by her family, friends and fans of her writing. Success will mean that I do not shy away from the ravages of ALS, the controversy of her psilocybin explorations, her unwitting ambivalence about dying juxtaposed with her determination to take a lethal injection. Artistic success, ultimately would be the illumination of Cai Emmons’ humanity and an authentic legacy.