ASSOCIATES (vol. 9, no. 1, July 2002) -


Director, Garry Beitel
Producer, Barry Lazar
Montreal, Quebec : Beitel/Lazar Productions, 1999
Woodstock, Ontario : Canadian Learning Company [Canadian distributor]
New York : Filmakers Library [U.S. distributor]
51 min. (VHS)

Video Review


Sylvia Skene
Library Technician
Advanced Education Media Acquisitions Centre
Langara College
Vancouver, B.C. Canada

A close-up of hands tenderly touching; a quiet moment that stretches into sadness; flourishes of music sung and strummed, played and hummed: all these are threaded throughout Endnotes.

The power of video is the power to suggest a complex, paradoxical reality using sight and sound, word and silence. Endnotes in particular uses that power to meaningfully delve into the last days of patients in the Palliative Care Unit of Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal, Quebec.

The video was shot from November 10th to December 10th. It follows the progress of three people, Denise Murk, Fred Vokey, and most of all, Yvonne Groom, as they work toward a pain-free existence, struggle with accepting their impending deaths, and connect with those who care for them, both family and staff.

The production techniques are deceptively simple: long shots with panning back and forth between conversationalists; no music other than that played by volunteers in footage; and no voice-over narration or interviewer.

Many members of the team who take care of these people and their families speak to the camera about their work and their insights: volunteers, therapists, a nurse, doctors, and so on. Patients and relatives also speak briefly.

For example, psychologist Johanne De Montigny is eloquent about her role helping patients and their families cope "one day at a time" because people are unable to believe in death, and so cannot think past it. Dr. Balfour Mount talks about the team's philosophy: "We don't see the people we are caring for as dying. We see them as people who are living. What concerns us are the issues … that are impairing their quality of time."

However, it is in the footage of this "limited life," as De Montigny calls it, that speaks volumes about the care taken by the filmmakers to record how they cherish these last moments in the unit. There are scenes of celebrations, singers and players, dogs and flowers. From the housekeeper to the nurses, the volunteers and family, they all routinely hold hands with, talk with and comfort the patients.

With no musical cues or maudlin script, the viewer is left to respond to and interpret as he or she might when faced with these eloquently simple scenes. As such, families, health care professionals and students can all come away with insights from watching the video.

Near the end of the program, the housekeeper, Ionie Williams, is filmed making up an empty bed. Was it Yvonne's? They never say.

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