A woman’s decision to take control of the end of her life creates complex, unexpected challenges for her caregiver husband. This unprecedented look at a person’s final weeks sheds light on the growing crisis of family caregivers in our country.

Synopsis
After four years of battling cancer, 60-year-old Bambi Fass has had enough. Though a natural fighter and optimist, when her cancer goes metastatic, she decides to start focusing on maximizing quality of life instead of just prolonging it. She foregoes additional radiation treatment in order to live out her final weeks at home surrounded by her family and friends in Oakland. Although reluctant to let go of a woman he had met only three years earlier, her husband Rick supports her choice. An emotional journey that begins with song-filled friends and family gatherings, soon turns deeply challenging as Rick is left alone to care for Bambi in her final weeks, juggling the day-to-day demands of in-home hospice, the custody of his two-year-old granddaughter, and the devastating realities of Bambi’s decline.

Dr. Jessica Nutik Zitter, MD, MPH - Producer/Executive Producer/Director

A national advocate for transforming the way people die in America, Jessica is Harvard and UCSF-trained to practice the unusual combination of Critical and Palliative Care medicine. She works as an Attending Physician at a public hospital in Oakland, California. Dr. Zitter’s work is featured in the Oscar and Emmynominated Netflix documentary, Extremis. She is the author of Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to the End of Life. She is a regular contributor to The New York Times and her articles have appeared in The Atlantic, Time Magazine, Journal of the American Medical Association, The Washington Post and many other publications.

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Kevin Gordon - Producer/Director/Editor

The child of Jewish immigrants from apartheid South Africa, Kevin began his career in international human rights work before returning to his first love, documentary storytelling, as an alternative tool for change. After completing his MFA in Documentary Film at Stanford University, Kevin won awards at film festivals around the world, was selected for the “Filmmakers of Tomorrow” program at the Telluride Film Festival, and earned a Student Academy Award® for his film Dreams Awake. He has produced projects for PBS, Discovery, and The New York Times Op-Docs. His first feature-length film True Son premiered at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival and was sold to Fusion TV.

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Clare Major, Cinematography

Clare Major is a cinematographer and documentary filmmaker based in Oakland, California. She has filmed on four continents and specializes in stories that illuminate the lives of women and the intersections of cultures. She was Director of Photography on WE ARE THE RADICAL MONARCHS, which premiered at SXSW in 2019, now on POV/PBS.

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Shalacee Haas, Cinematography Shaleece Haas is a filmmaker and multimedia journalist based in Oakland, California. She produces independent documentaries, is a freelance director of photography (DP) and teaches video storytelling at the Knight Digital Media Center at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism.

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William Ryan Fritch, Composer

Fritch is an award winning composer, multiinstrumentalist, and producer living in California. Since 2008, he has scored and/or contributed original music to over a hundred documentary and narrative films, many of which that have been celebrated by festivals and organizations such as the Emmy nominated and Independent Spirit Award winning "The Waiting Room" and the 2016 Academy Award, Peabody and Emmy nominated documentary "4.1 Miles."

Director’s Statement

The burden on family caregivers is rising in this country, and fast. 2017 was the first time in over a hundred years that more people died at home than in a hospital. That’s good, because home is where most people say that they want to be. But in bringing the dying home, 53 million non-professional caregivers are now working double-time and for free in jobs for which they are completely untrained.

 

Caregiver: A Love Story puts a human face to the toll—physical, emotional, and financial—that afflicts most family members who care for their dying loved ones at home. In 24 minutes, Bambi Fass and her husband Rick take us through the joys, and the unexpected sorrows, that can accompany a family’s journey through the end of life.

 

Documentary storytelling can be humbling. The message that emerges may be very different from what was intended. That was the case with this film. While the original intent was to focus the lens on Bambi—with her ebullient personality and profound courage—the rough cut showed us that Rick’s was the real story that needed to be told.

Caregiver: A Love Story provides a glimpse into a crisis that might someday affect each and every one of us. As we witness the inescapable and rising pressures on Rick, we realize that a good end-of-life experience is not a guarantee, even if we do all the “right things.” It is a sobering message, but one which too many will relate to, and which all of the rest of us need to hear. We believe that Caregiver: A Love Story will make it impossible to ignore the plight of those who care for a seriously ill loved one at home.

 

Jessica Zitter and Kevin Gordon, co-directors