Private Project

Love, Zoë – An Alzheimer's Documentary

In the days before her wedding, a young filmmaker explores the meaning of love and commitment as she composes a series of poignant letters to her father who has Alzheimer’s disease. This short documentary follows the filmmaker’s journey as she prepares to get married and have her dad walk her down the aisle, and as her mom prepares to divorce her dad and marry his caregiver.

  • Zoë Smurr
  • Zoë Smurr
  • Micah Byers
  • Zoë Smurr
    Key Cast
  • Annette Smurr
    Key Cast
  • John Smurr
    Key Cast
  • Carl Sumrow
    Key Cast
  • Zoë Smurr
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short, Student
  • Genres:
    Family, Drama, Women, Senior/Aging, Autobiographical, Alzheimer's
  • Runtime:
    13 minutes 56 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    May 26, 2016
  • Production Budget:
    3,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Zoë Smurr

Zoë Smurr is a filmmaker and memoirist who loves telling stories about identity, memory and" imagined place." She’s currently earning her M.F.A. in Film Production at Loyola Marymount University and graduated from UC Berkeley with her B.A. in English Literature in 2013.

Hailing from Fresno, CA, Zoë was active in Fresno City College's theatre program from 2009 to 2011. During that time, she was selected to direct a short student-written play, nominated for an "Irene Ryan" for her performance in Teasers, and competed at the regional Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in Los Angeles (2010).

While at UC Berkeley, Zoë was a founding member of Art for Social Change at Cal (now #printatcal), a collective of students, artists and activists collaborating with diverse communities in the Berkeley area to raise awareness and discourse through art. She commissioned writers and actors, as well as acted herself, in a series of self-curated "Marginalization Monologues" about undocumented students, homelessness and human sex-trafficking at the collective's first exhibition in Berkeley, CA in 2012. She taught theatre as an elective to 7th and 8th grade girls at REALM Charter School in Berkeley, CA while interning with Cal C.R.E.A.T.E., as well as published the academic article “Punk or Poetess?: The Female Author’s Struggle for Rhetorical Power and Ownership Over the Body in Restoration England” in The Folio – UC Berkeley’s English Undergraduate Journal in the spring of 2013.

Before attending LMU's School of Film and Television, Zoë began documenting growth and downtown revitalization efforts in her hometown of Fresno by filming the youth combatting urban sprawl and pioneering a movement through their art and music to stake out the desolate downtown for themselves. She has aspirations of adapting Pulitzer Prize winning writer and fellow Fresnan William Saroyan’s short stories into films one day.

Zoë is a two-time recipient of the prestigious Cosgrove Family Endowment, a full-tuition scholarship through LMU’s SFTV. She currently works as SFTV’s Communications Graduate Assistant writing feature stories for the LogLines newsletter, managing social media, and generating print and web content. She has also worked as a production assistant on The Hollywood Masters, the acclaimed interview series filmed on LMU’s campus with host Stephen Galloway, Executive Features Editor at The Hollywood Reporter.

The half Armenian writer-director is in pre-production for her thesis film, a short fictional narrative: "When a spineless granddaughter finds the courage to defy her mother, a tight-knit Armenian American family must reckon with the lies and dysfunction binding them together in secrecy against the ailing matriarch of the family."

She recently got hitched to her favorite street performer and film composer, Micah Byers, and resides in Los Angeles, CA.

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Director Statement

Many people have awed at my ability to put such a deeply personal story out there, but I honestly couldn’t imagine having made a film about anything else.

There is an allusion to the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in the opening of the film. More precisely, it is a reference to Sarah Ruhl’s play Eurydice. The play reimagines the myth from Eurydice’s perspective, as the newlywed faces the choice of returning to Earth with her husband, or staying in the Underworld with her father.

Once Eurydice is dipped into the River of Forgetfulness and enters the Underworld, she cannot recognize her father, who has worked tirelessly to retain as much of his “living memory” as possible. For the rest of the play, he teaches her to remember who he is, the life they’d had before he passed away, and even her name. I found it an oddly comforting parallel to my experience with my dad since his diagnosis when I was 15 years old, reminding him of who he is and who I am, and promising that maybe one day, in the next life, he could answer all the questions about himself I’d never get an answer to in this one.
I also wanted to meditate on the weight and meaning of marriage in light of Alzheimer’s. I’d only ever seen stories that showed couples who stayed together “‘til the end.” I wanted to show the reality that so many spouses and caregivers face but are too ashamed to talk about.

It took me a while to come to terms with my mom’s decision to divorce my dad, and I will not pretend to fully grasp the loss she has endured for over eight years and continues to endure every day. I didn’t get it until one day when I realized that my dad is actually more at peace now than he’s ever been in his adult life, released from his inner-demons, without a care in the world. It is my mom who lives daily with the pain, loss and burden.
It is through the experience of making this film that I’ve learned you cannot run away from your grief – you must lean into it in order to heal. Especially as an artist: lean into the things that scare and hurt you the most – it is the only way to survive.