Grief Becomes Me: A Poet’s Journey — Sneak Preview at Art Theatre

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grief-becomes-meThe Art Theatre of Long Beach presents a sneak preview of “Grief Becomes Me: A Poet’s Journey,” this Saturday, May 2nd, 11 am-1 pm. Based on the critically acclaimed short film, “Grief Becomes Me,” the film is a painful and tender portrait of grief transforming into hope, based on the real-life experiences of respected poet and Long Beach resident, Donna Hilbert, after her husband Larry’s sudden and tragic death. Much of the film was shot in the Belmont Shores area of Long Beach.

In the months following, Hilbert addressed her grief in poetry, completing the celebrated collection, “Transforming Matter”. Six years later, director Christine Fugate discovered Hilbert’s work and began translating it to film. The result was “Grief Becomes Me’, a short film consisting of three poems, which debuted at the LA Short Film Festival and the Long Beach Museum of Art. The short was the first in a trilogy of poems dealing with life, death and the afterlife. After the success of the short, Fugate decided to produce and direct a longer film, ‘Grief Becomes Me: A Poet’s Journey’, an interweaving of documentary footage, interviews with Hilbert, and narrative interpretations of Hilbert’s poetry. Fugate teamed with several other award-winning filmmakers—including Kate Amend (Thin, Into the Arms of Strangers) and Midge Costin (Cine Manifest, Armageddon)—who worked together for over four years on the project.

“I first met Donna in 2004 when she was reading at the AAUW Author’s Luncheon in Laguna Beach,” Fugate recalled. “I had recently lost my grandmother and two Aunts and was grieving their deaths. When I heard Donna’s poetry about the death of her husband (who was killed by a methadone addict while riding his bike in Long Beach), I was so moved. I introduced myself and told her I was going to make movies about her poems. She laughed and we exchanged information. After reading her books, I called and told her I wanted to film three of her poems about grief. She says it is a phone call that changed her life. She was very depressed and feeling hopeless.”

“I made a 5-minute film in 2005 called “Grief Becomes Me” that focused on her poems about grief,” she added. “We filmed on the peninsula near Belmont Shores. This short film played to sold-out audiences at the Long Beach Art Museum and was invited to the Los Angeles Short Film Festival. After that, I decided to film other poems so there would be a trilogy of life, death and afterlife. For the next couple of years, we filmed in various locations in Long Beach. One of the poems, “My Heaven”, was filmed in a gorgeous Italian home in Long Beach and features many Long Beach residents who are non-actors. The film was shot in Long Beach for over a period of five years, various locations served as the set for heaven, a deep forest and Donna’s home. We are excited and honored to have our first screening at the Art Theatre in Long Beach.”

About Donna Hilbert

Hilbert’s widely respected work hit the poetry world in 1990, with the release of her first collection, Mansions. With language ‘astonishingly pure and crystalline,’ her poems examine the complexity of human emotion and relationships (Jonathan Ward). Grief Becomes Me: A Poet’s Journey explores grief through an interweaving of poetic visuals portraying Donna’s inner life and her present day reality. Striking cinematography by Sandra Chandler (Eyes of Tammy Faye, Living Dolls) creates a bridge between these two worlds as we watch Donna struggle to reconcile the death of her husband, occurring as it did, just as they had emerged from a crisis in their marriage to rebuild a life together. The film celebrates the return to life after grief, the solace of family and friends and the sweet discovery of new romantic love.

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