Lowell Film Festival Spotlight: “Lessons for the Living” – screens Saturday, April 30 at 1:30PM


a feature documentary at the Lowell Film Festival 
Saturday, April 30 @ 1:30PM
Boott Cotton Mills Museum Events Center
115 Foot of John Street, Lowell
Free admission  |  General admission seating

We extend a special invitation to those in hospice, nursing, or other social service fields to join us for this inspiring film.

The 4th Annual Lowell Film Festival, Thursday, April 28 – Saturday, April 30 (LowellFilmFestival.org), is proud to focus its lens on the 150th Anniversary of the American Civil War with special attention on the City of Lowell in the Civil War. In addition to screening recognizable films that feature the War or specific events of the era, the Festival has also curated contemporary films that allow us to dialogue on societal topics brought about by issues surrounding the Civil War, including race relations, our nation’s history with slavery, and conflict and resolution. In addition to these topics, the subject of death and dying — impossible to avoid where war is concerned — also holds great meaning. It is here where we give thanks to Lowell historian and friend Richard Howe, Jr. for introducing us to the book “This Republic of  Suffering: Death and the American Civil War,” written by Drew Gilpin Faust, current President of Harvard University. Learning of this book reinforced the Festival’s decision to screen an intimate, poignant documentary from filmmaker Lily Frances Henderson titled Lessons for the Living. The film’s focus? Hospice workers in New York City.

Remarkably, the following text was uncovered during our research:
What does the American Civil War teach us about Death and Dying? Prior to the Civil War, the end of life process commonly occurred at home, with family, the family physician, clergy, community members, and others with long-standing relationships providing care and support. Funerals were commonly held at the local church, providing family, extended family, friends, and community members a place to express and share their grief. Custom also provided for public mourning, allowing the bereaved to openly express their grief, and for others to recognize and offer support. The unforeseen circumstances of the Civil War – which in today’s population would equal 6 million deaths – profoundly changed these customs.

Filmmaker Lily Frances Henderson

In contemporary America, when asked to describe how one wishes to spend one’s final months and days, respondents will often describe a scenario resembling the pre-Civil War process described above, with friends, family and loved ones playing a key part in our final departure. Yet this ideal is frequently not achieved. Faust’s book explores many aspects of ‘war-death,’ including the necessary rituals for the dead (physical and emotional) and the grieving. What ways does our CURRENT end of life process reflect the death, realizing, and mourning processes experienced by many during the Civil War? What interventions can end of life care practitioners consider to achieve the goals of the individual, their family, and community in such circumstances? In Lessons for the Living, we hear first-hand from hospice volunteers as they reflect on their remarkable experiences in the field and share their philosophies of life and death. Respectfully and beautifully captured by Henderson and her filmmaking team, these intimate stories will absolutely move you, and even perhaps conjure up a sense of what it must have been like for the hundreds of thousands on the battle field, not to mention the many more on the home front who carried the burden of the tragic loss of life.

For further reflective reading on Faust’s book and death and the Civil War, visit Deathcare.com on “The Art of Dying, or Ars Moriendi.” The information found there makes reference to the dialogue the Lowell Film Festival committee wishes to set in motion through its selection of Lessons for the Living.

Thank you for helping us spread the word about the Lowell Film Festival and what we hope is a thought-provoking, AND entertaining, 3-day program.


Published by Lowell Film Collaborative

The Lowell Film Collaborative is a grassroots initiative in Lowell, MA, whose mission is to bring more cinematic awareness to the community.

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