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Layla Peykamian and Ana Hoppert Flores



A sometimes magical, nearly always neorealist narrative short film, Abuela follows Amelia, who has late-stage Alzheimer’s, in her last thirty-six hours in her home, focusing on the interactions she has with her granddaughter Nayeli. Through a series of match-cuts and crossfades indicating flashes back in time and Nayeli’s memories of her and her grandmother, parts of Amelia’s story and being are pieced together.

Artist Statement

Our approach to producing, writing, and filming was based in sincere collaboration. This was often done through connecting over the experience of being women of color and having been impacted by Alzhimers/Dementia. As filmmaking partners, we met at least once a week throughout the duration of the project’s creation to chat over tea and develop the story of Abuela. We also strived to facilitate friendship and collaboration within our cast and crew. Because Abuela focuses on the relationship between two women, to authentically tell their story we thought it important to have a cast/crew who were predominantly women, and could connect to Nayeli and Amelia’s lived experience. Having conversations on and off set about womanhood and culture were integral to creating the story of Abuela.

Abuela is also, first and foremost, a visually-driven film. We focused on emphasizing strong visual motifs and emotionally evocative color pallets to guide the narrative, with sparingly placed and carefully chosen dialogue. By using light and shadow to our advantage, we were able to create some beautiful visual interest in a few, otherwise “simple” shots, such as the kitchen scenes. This, in combination with our genre of neo-realism, was done in an effort to make the audience feel like they were slipping into a vivid daydream.

While taking inspiration from our own cross-cultural lived experiences was fundamental to solidifying the trajectory Abuela was to take, we also looked to directors to guide our storymaking. We especially dialed in on directors whose works balance heavier, contemplative moments with lighter ones, and were influenced by films that depict the kind of joy, magic, and hardship that can only be found in girlhood. Snippets from movies like Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig, 2017), Because of Winn-Dixie (Wayne Wang, 2005), Everything Everywhere All At Once (Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert, 2022), and Titanic (James Cameron, 1997) speckled our creative choices. From our audition sides, to our equipment selection, to our edits in the cutting room, these guiding films edged us to weave a story reminiscent of our own childhoods, distresses, and dreams. We also studied movies like Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1983), Kelly Reichardt’s Old Joy (2006), and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Biutiful (2010) to help us gauge how to best ground our film within the neo-realistic conventions that are so key to Abuela’s tone and pace.

We hope viewers will take note of this neo-realistic nature of the film, noticing the multiple long shots and gentle pacing. We also hope they recognize the subtle ways we’ve included the implications of Alzheimer’s/Dementia on the character of Amelia, such as her loss of the ability to speak English in the “present” portions of the film. Our use of a cooler color pallet for the present, versus warmer tones for the past is an easter egg we also think viewers will catch on to. Lastly, we hope viewers take note of the musical motif we’ve implemented into the score, and how the motif changes and evolves based on the context in which it plays.

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