Christian de Rezendes, the gifted director of “Getting Out of Rhode Island” and “41,” has turned his attention and camera to the short documentary genre with “Zach, a Film About Epilepsy.”
Zach Smith, age 19, lives with a severe form of epilepsy. He is unable to care for himself and requires a small army of family members and therapists to provide for his needs. His caregivers tirelessly and lovingly attend to his every need, and the film examines the wide variety of physical therapy and educational efforts used to keep Zach connected with the wider world.
While no one in the film openly complains about the acute demands involved in Zach’s care, a few signs of stress emerge. His mother ruefully notes how his peers are already leaving home and going to college while Zach still requires diapering and spoon feeding. The film does not go into detail on the expenses incurred by Zach’s illness and treatment, though his mother holds up two huge bags of pill bottles as evidence of countless pharmaceutical therapies that were unsuccessfully pursued. Zach’s illness has robbed him of his communication skills, and the enigmatic expression from his eyes makes it impossible for the casual observer to decipher what he is thinking or feeling.
This film is co-produced by Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE), a nonprofit that is trying to raise awareness and capital into federal funding to combat this disease. The film notes that epilepsy research is significantly shortchanged when compared to research into other diseases. “Zach, a Film About Epilepsy” offers heartbreaking evidence of the disease’s toll and, hopefully, it can be used to help CURE achieve its important goals.