Olivia de Havilland

Film about the arts vs. Alzheimer's to be on PBS

hildy boat  

Watercolor by HILDA GORENSTEIN (aka Hilgos), part of a series she did after developing Alzheimer's disease.


Note to  southeastern New England readers: This movie  discussed below will be shown at 10 p.m., Friday, Nov. 7, on Rhode Island PBS. 

I Remember Better When I Paint shows how the creative arts can enhance the quality of life for people with Alzheimer’s. The film will be shown  on public television stations nationwide during November, which is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month in the U.S.

Narrated by Academy award-winning actress Olivia de Havilland, this international documentary includes visits to a variety of care facilities, as well as leading art museums in North America and Europe, to demonstrate how creative activities such as drawing, painting and museum visits can reawaken a sense of identity, dignity and engagement among those with severe memory impairment.

Leading doctors and neurologists explain how parts of the brain can be spared and discuss the life-enriching benefits of these new approaches. Among these experts are Dr. Robert Butler, M.D.,  founding director of the National Institutes on Aging (NIH) and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author; Dr. Samuel Gandy, M.D., of Mt. Sinai School of Medicine; Dr. Robert Green, M.D., of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School,  and Dr. Robert Stern, M.D. professor of neurology at Boston University.

Inspiring personal stories are featured, including that of Rita Hayworth, as told by her daughter, Yasmin Aga Khan, to highlight the transformative impact of art and other creative therapies and how they are changing the way we look at Alzheimer’s.

The inspiration for the film came from the artist Hilgos, who had severe memory loss. When her daughter, Berna Huebner, asked: “Mom, do you want to paint?” She unexpectedly responded, “Yes, I remember better when I paint.” Art students helped her regain a capacity for exchange and communication through painting.

The movie was written and directed by Eric Ellena and Berna Huebner, and is a French Connection Films and Hilgos Foundation production. The program is a presentation of WTTW National Productions in Chicago, and is distributed nationally by American Public Television (APT).


I have been following  the saga  of this movie for years, even before I wrote about it in an article  in a fine magazine then called Miller-McCune and now called Pacific Standard.

-- Robert Whitcomb

The arts, Alzheimer's and Boomers



A way to help Boomers who get dementia does exist. The power of the arts to improve the quality of life of people with Alzheimer’s  disease and to help them connect and reconnect with their families is just beginning to be understood.
A film, which has been described by people in the field as groundbreaking, describes how the worlds of art, science and medicine intersect. It addresses the critical discourse on Alzheimer’s care with far-reaching implications for Baby Boomers, who are reaching the age when they might develop Alzheimer’s.
The documentary is called I Remember Better When I Paint (the trailer is at irememberbetterwhenipaint.com). It is narrated by Olivia de Havilland and provides powerful examples, including that of Rita Hayworth as told by her daughter Yasmin Aga Khan, of how families and other caregivers can use the creative arts to help people with Alzheimer’s. It also includes interviews with neurologists who explain the science behind these hopeful stories. Neurologists in the film explain that parts of the brain related to emotions and creative expression are spared to a large extent. These areas can be stimulated through exposure to the arts.
We hope that this film will help change the way people look at Alzheimer’s.
In her review Gail Sheehy says “It shows an entirely new pathway for engaging with a loved one you thought was lost.”
Berna G Huebner
Director, The Hilgos Foundation, Highland Park, Illinois
Co-Directors of the Film: Eric Ellena and Berna G. Huebner