Saturday, June 27, 2015

The State of "Grace"

Making a film is a lot like having a child. Sure, you love it and nurture it, but you also fight with it and suffer through difficult stretches where you wonder if it will ever amount to anything. Also like being a parent, whatever you do only goes so far: it isn't until you release your charge into the world that you see if it connects with people and enjoys a life of its own, or it moves back into your basement. Same story whether it's a kid or a DVD.  

That's the journey that Dave Iverson has been on for the past several years (the film version, not the kid version). An award winning independent producer and broadcast journalist, Iverson is no stranger to the process. He's produced and reported on over 20 films for PBS, as well as having served as a special correspondent for the PBS NewsHour. His documentary "The Thirty Second Candidate" won a National Emmy Award in 1999, and he was the writer, correspondent and co-producer/director of the 2009 PBS Frontline documentary "My Father, My Brother and Me" which explored how he and his family have battled Parkinson's disease.

But for the past several years his labor of love has been a remarkable documentary about a program wherein New York's legendary Mark Morris Dance Group joined forces with people with Parkinson's disease. Filmed over a year, it focuses on the "Dance for PD" program, and the dancers, instructors, patients and their families who are involved, all culminating with a public performance in Brooklyn in November of 2012. (If you're a regular reader of this space, you might remember an earlier post from that time.)

Well, the baby was born, or the kid graduated, or the youngster got married, pick your analogy. And what a perceptive and intelligent good-looker it turned out to be. "Capturing Grace" is an amazing film that plays its difficult hand with intelligence, with style, with sensitivity, and with, well, grace. After I contributed some small help to its production, Dave was kind enough to invite me to a screening. What I saw on the screen was powerful stuff. It's a story told with skill, wit and beauty, one that leaves you marveling at those involved, some for the their patience, some for their courage, all for their humanity.  

And it's not just me who thinks so. The reviews in places like The New York Times and the Washington Post have been terrific ("a must-see"). As of this writing it has been accepted to 11 major film festivals, and it's won various awards at 6. It's also in the process of having its national close up: the film's broadcast premier on PBS begins this week. As they say, check your local listings, but in the New York area it's on WNET Thirteen on June 26 at 10P, June 28 at 130P, and continues elsewhere into the summer.

I asked Dave what it feels like to have such reception. "I think I've now seen the film with a theater audience something like 30 times. And it's always wondrous. It's been deeply moving to see how the film seems to resonate with people, whether they're connected to the Parkinson's experience or not, and the impact that it seems to have on them. There's nothing quite like having someone come up to you say ‘thank you' and to see in their eyes how deeply felt that sentiment is. I feel so lucky to have had this experience. There's no question that for me the film matters more than anything I've ever done."

You would think that for a filmmaker with such extensive experience as Iverson there would be nothing new in the game. But you would be wrong. "What I learned is how much it matters to believe in something completely and to care about doing it as well as you possibly can. And that if you bring your whole heart into that process, and you're blessed with wonderfully gifted collaborators, then you open up the possibility of doing something that matters. And then when it's complete you have the great good fortune to feel grateful."  

Watch it. See why Dave is grateful. And see what a good looking kid "Grace" turned out to be.


Marc Wollin of Bedford is thrilled to have played a very small part in helping "Grace" move out of the house. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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