The 17th edition of the Los Angeles-Italia Film Fashion and Art Festival has just wrapped up at Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre. Over the years, the pre-Oscars event has awarded celebrities of the caliber of Al Pacino, Sylvester Stallone, Gerard Butler, Mel Gibson – just to name a few.
This year, the Festival gave its Excellence Award to filmmaker Valerio Zanoli, who wrote, produced and directed an indie film with a big heart: Not to Forget. Zanoli succeeded in his goal of raising awareness about Alzheimer’s and caregiving, and was helped by a great cast of 5 Oscar winners: Cloris Leachman, Olympia Dukakis, George Chakiris, Louis Gossett Jr, and Tatum O’Neal.
Some of the cast members attended the event and were honored, together with Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement. The Los Angeles-Italia Film Festival was founded and is produced by Pascal Vicedomini, and has an Honorary Board that includes Sergio Mattarella and Mario Draghi, respectively President and Prime Minister of Italy.
Vicedomini wanted to recognize Zanoli’s achievement in filmmaking and the important messages he promotes in Not to Forget and in the other films he directed and produced. Zanoli is the creator of the project www.letsmakeadifference.info – which includes films that talk of childhood cancer, bullying, eating disorders, Alzheimer’s, and homelessness.
(Pictured left to right) Tate Dewey, George Chakiris, Christina Zorich, Valerio Zanoli, Sofia Milos, Robert Davi, Bernard Hiller
Zanoli stated that “filmmaking could – and should – be used to make a difference. It’s called ‘movie business,’ but one can make money while still having an impact. It’s important to note that Not to Forget is much more than an ‘Alzheimer’s film’. Its protagonist is not Grandma, but Chris – the young grandson who ends up becoming a caregiver. Chris also needs to cope with the loss of his mother, forgive his father, and learn how to love himself. There is at least one element of him in each of us.
In the United States, over 20% of adults provide care or assistance to a friend or family member. Caregivers are the unsung heroes, who are willing to sacrifice themselves to take care of their loved ones. Out of love, they often renounce their job, social life, and personal well-being.
Caregiving is a fundamental part of society, a reminder of how much we all need each other, and one of the purest forms of love. After all, caring for a loved one can be enormously fulfilling and is ‘not just pain’ – like one of the characters says in Not to Forget.”
Not to Forget was a “nice surprise” and “a gem that should be discovered and appreciated by everybody.” The film moved Festival organizers and attendees, who praised Zanoli’s work and found themselves inspired by it.
Sofia Milos, President of the Festival and famed actress (CSI: Miami): “As artists we have the platform and privilege not only to entertain, but also to inspire and be a voice in raising awareness for important causes. Not to Forget by director Valerio Zanoli does that with a heartwarming story.”
Silvia Chiave, Consul General of Italy in Los Angeles: “If I do not see it I can’t believe it. This old saying of popular belief is, in my modest opinion, at the core of the message of this meaningful movie. Nowadays, even more than in the past one needs to witness with his own eyes to be able to establish an emotional connection with the surrounding reality. In this sense, filmmaking represents one of the most powerful tools we have to discuss and create awareness, also around delicate and somehow disturbing topics. Moreover, in an era such as this one where we tend to forget what happened just last week, memories of our past are essential, not only for us to able to imagine our future but also to understand who we are and where we come from. Valerio Zanoli’s Not to Forget is an authentic tribute to the importance of storytelling and the relevance of care giving. It is literally the living proof that filmmaking can make a difference.”
Emanuele Amendola, Director of the Italian Institute of Culture in Los Angeles: “The abundance of memory, through the proliferation of selfies, videos and status updates, paradoxically risks diminishing the value of memory itself. Valerio Zanoli’s film, on the other hand, demonstrates the profound meaning of testimony, a value that goes beyond its simple physical trace and is expressed in the action of taking care of one another. Not to Forget, close to the sensibility of the countless people who have been affected by this and any other cruel disease, offers the gift of comfort and solidarity while, at the same time, through the empathic power of the camera, it affirms a fundamental message: Our past and our future are, literally, in the hands of those who are next to us and love us. It is a great responsibility, which, nevertheless, allows us to discover a better version of ourselves.”
The cast of Not to Forget supported the film and added some positive comments.
Karen Grassle, actress (Ma from Little House on the Prairie): “Working on the film NOT TO FORGET was an unforgettable experience. After writer and director Valerio Zanoli approached me for the role of Melody, I read the screenplay and I immediately accepted to be part of this sweet and charming story. Valerio is gifted as well as dedicated to his field. He has been specializing in films with important social messages.”
Christina Zorich, daughter of Oscar winning actress Olympia Dukakis: “My grandmother, Alexandra Dukakis, spent the last years of her life with Alzheimer’s disease. So, I know, our whole family knows, how devastating this disease can be on a family. I’m sure this is one of the reasons why my mother Olympia felt moved to be a part of Not to Forget. Thank you, Valerio Zanoli, for making your film about this subject matter.”
George Chakiris, Oscar winning actor: “When Not to Forget came about, I was really pleased to take part in a film about a very important subject. I worked a whole day on that, so if you blink you could miss me, but I was happy to be involved because of the very important subject matter. I was eager to help make a difference by supporting this sweet / charming film and the fight against Alzheimer’s.”
Tate Dewey, actor: “Throughout the film, my character Chris goes through a transformation that seems subtle at first, but when you get to the end you can see it fully. I wanted to make sure I was conveying that arc and showing that people like Chris can overcome dark periods of their lives to find meaning and happiness. I learned a lot about myself playing Chris, and I feel so lucky to have gotten this role.”
Several Alzheimer’s organizations commended Not to Forget and called it “heartfelt and moving” (Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement) and “exceptional” (Alzheimer Italia).
Valerio Zanoli, director and producer of Not to Forget, dedicated his Excellence Award to all the caregivers: “This award is not only to celebrate a film, but also and foremost to give us hope and strength so we can continue in our mission. We are all in this together, and we all need to step up even more. We are all human beings and, deep down, we are all good. We need to take care of each other, because love always comes first and family always triumphs.”
Not to Forget is available in the U.S. on all major streaming platforms.