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#HotDocs21 Review: It Is Not Over Yet

May 6, 2021

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The 2021 Hot Docs Festival is running virtually from April 29th to May 9th, all films are available to stream for audiences across Canada

At Dagmarsminde, a nursing home in Denmark for people with dementia, the staff operate on principles of kindness and compassion, instead of just using medication to subdue the residents. They sit with them, don’t correct them when they talk about their deceased parents still being alive, and allow them to drink alcohol and eat cake.

As a result, the residents are on less than one medication a day, where most homes have them on upwards of ten. The home is run by May Bjerre Eiby, a nurse who started it after becoming distraught over the conditions of the nursing home that she worked in as a teenager, where her father eventually had to go live. She came up with the idea to treat people with dementia as people, striving to meet them where they are at instead of trying to force them back into reality.

This person-focused way of dealing with dementia is explored in director Louise Detlefsen’s highly compassionate documentary It Is Not Over Yet. With an unobtrusive approach to filming inside the home, Detlefsen allows us to patiently observe interactions between the residents and staff. We see how the staff are determined to maintain quality of life for the residents at all times. Moments of confusion or agitation are met with calm understanding, instead of sedatives. When one of the men tries to wander out at night to check on the chickens, the nurses don’t try to stop him, and just makes sure that he has the right coat on instead.

It’s an approach that is seen as radical by some, and revolutionary by others, and Detlefsen’s respectful film, which was shot by her cinematographer husband Per Fredrik Skiold with a very small crew, allows us to see the effects for ourselves. The documentary also raises some deeper ethical questions about end of life care, and how much should be done for someone in their final days, leading to some of the most challenging and heart-wrenching onscreen moments. This is a thought provoking and often touching look at a different approach to caring for people with dementia.

It Is Not Over Yet is available to watch from April 29th until May 9th. It includes a Q&A. Digital tickets and more information can be found right here.

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