When Margaret Lee was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND), or ALS, she believed she could beat the unbeatable odds. Her journey – and that of her family – for the next four years is captured by New Zealand filmmaker Gwen Isaac in Where There Is Life, an intimate and honestly-observed documentary.
Where There is Life opens on Margaret and her husband Stephen Lee’s wedding day, 15 years previous. It’s Stephen who has taken on the huge challenge of full-time caring for Margaret, and it’s the love that binds them so forcefully and how these events impact on their family that is the focus of the film.
We visit the couple at church, at hospital and in hospice care, but for the most part the film encounters this family at home, as Stephen and Margaret move through their final years together. The non-linear timeline of Where There is Life reveals the contrasts between the past and present lives of the family, and gives voice to Margaret’s inner world when she can no longer speak.
Daughter Imogen is 10 years old at the time of her mother’s diagnosis; she goes about her pre-teen life as best she can, but her world is irrevocably changed. Imogen becomes more distant and distracted as she tries to grapple with her mother’s situation but eventually, and unexpectedly, they connect.
Where There is Life traverses the ever-changing, emotional landscape of Margaret and Stephen’s world through home-based palliative care, hospice respite care and hospital, as family, friends and carers try to help with this enormous task.
The film asks, how should we live when we are dying?
Where There is Life is a documentary film about love, identity, duty and the shifting of power within a marriage.
Gwen Isaac studied filmmaking in New Zealand and traveled to the UK, determined to have a career in broadcast documentary television. After having her wallet stolen twice in the first week, she knew that the only way to go was up.
She talked her way into a producer’s job at teen cable channel Rapture in Norwich and there was able to edit, produce, direct and shoot daily to the point where nothing scared her.
Highlights of Gwen’s career-to-date include being selected for the prestigious ITV Metroland series for new directors, where her documentary Old Dogs, New Tricks about what happens to retired greyhounds was the Evening Standard’s ‘One to Watch’. Her observational documentary series for the BBC Summer at Yorkminster was also singled out by the Observer as the Best on Telly for that week.
In the USA Gwen freelanced for UK-based series such as the BBC’s Human Project, Behind the Scenes on NBC’s Heroes and Lyndsey Lohan Indian Journey for Channel Four. She also hung out with Paris Hilton in Guatemala – but if you ask her about that she goes a bit green.
PRAISE FOR WHERE THERE IS LIFE
Where There is Life’s world premiere at the 2017 New Zealand International Film Festival was a huge success.
The NZIFF committee declared, “Isaac’s film is often startling in its candour” and all sessions sold out well ahead of time.
There has been great press! Check out coverage in the Dominion Post about the story behind the film right here and listen here to a frank interview between director Gwen Isaac and Jesse Mulligan on Radio New Zealand here.
Produced and Directed by
Music composed by
Aline Tran, Tom Ackroyd, Jonathan King, Quade Biddle and John Silvester
‘Blue’ performed by Heather Weir
Post Production Facility
Park Road Post
Special thanks to
Annie Collins & Pietra Brettkelly
Jonathan King, Rubber Monkey Rentals, Atomise Limited, Joaquin Loyzaga,
Hope Centre, Hutt DHB, Te Omanga Hospice and
The Lee Family
Copyright and all rights reserved, 2017