This extraordinary work interweaves the stories of three close lesbian friends: Joyce Fulton (66), who died over the course of two years from a brain tumor; Mary Bell Wilson (79), who, with indefatigable courage, faces up to her own losing battle with lymphoma; and Nan Golub (58), a black-leather-jacketed, platinum-dyed New York City artist, very much alive. Libertydemystifies death, dispels misinformation about age and sexual orientation, and reminds us that life is worth living, even worth celebrating.
"A beautiful program. Courageous and joyful."
Liberty explores the deep connections in a circle of lesbian friends as they face death and celebrate life and love. Viewers say Liberty has documented the meaning of community with rare grace and wit. It is not a wimpy, weepy tale by a mile, but a keen celebration of family values. Liberty demystifies death, dispels misinformation about age and sexual orientation, and reminds us how rich life is, even in the shadow of death.
Part One: Death to Life records the death of Joyce Fulton, 66. In the opening scenes, we see her, wasted, beyond speech, with a group of friends around her who are helping her out of this world. Moving backwards in time, we then observe the process of Joyce's terminal brain cancer over the course of two years. In a sense, we see Joyce moving from sick to well, becoming the person she was on the day she celebrated retiring from teaching high school four years earlier.
Part Two: Life to Death is a reminiscence of Mary Bell Wilson, 79, described by one of her friends as "a Katherine Hepburn type." She is a long time friend of Joyce Fulton, and Joyce reappears several times in Life to Death. Before Mary Bell dies, she has high hopes of building a new home with her lover and partner of 25 years and of riding in Dykes on Bikes in the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade. With indefatigable courage, she faces up to her own losing struggle with lymphoma.
Part Three: Life is about Nan Golub, a close friend of both Joyce and Mary Bell. In New York, in winter, we see her living as an artist -- a black-leather-jacketed, platinum-dyed city woman. In one sequence she sketches a family tree of the women we've met earlier and suddenly we have a more vivid idea of who they were and what they've meant to each other. Golub ties the three parts of the documentary together and reminds us that in spite of tragedy and death, life is worth living, even worth celebrating.
I showed Liberty to my class in Death, Dying and Bereavement today. Students learned a lot from it, smiled and laughed at the humor, felt sad over the sad parts, and rejoiced over the happy ones. Many of these are things we've been talking about in a theoretical manner. This made them all come alive!
"Social conservatives may attempt to portray the gay community as outside the rights and joys of the 'traditional' family but in the end, Liberty proves that everyone should be so lucky to have such love, support, and sense of community as these women. Where there is love, there is life, and where there are both, there is liberty."
"For those who work with older adults, Liberty offers thought-provoking perspectives on care giving, the need for culturally sensitive services, and the diversity of family structures."
"We can learn many things from this film: what constitutes family; what kinds of support people need when facing surgery, cancer treatment, and death; and how we can enhance that support."
"Liberty vividly portrays the value of friendship and support in caring for the sick and dying. A must see for my gerontology students in 'Women in the 2nd Half of Life'!"
"Incredible and moving. Liberty manages to make death and dying real and, at the same time, full of love and support.This is the way all of us would like to die, I suspect."