Filmmaker with Park City ties creates ‘Instructions on Parting’
What: Park City Film Series: “Instructions on Parting,” directed by Amy K. Jenkins
Where: The Park City Library’s Jim Santy Auditorium, 1255 Park Ave.
When: 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 1
How much: $8 for general admission; $7 for students and senior citizens
For more information, visit parkcityfilmseries.com.
Amy Jenkins experienced a profound family incident between 2002 and 2006.
During that time, the New Hampshire-based filmmaker watched her oldest daughter grow to the age of four as her mother, sister and brother died of cancer..
The cancer diagnoses and the birth of her child all came within a year, and Jenkins, a photographer and video artist, began filming videos of her family for her personal archives.
“Years later, it became clear to me that this footage would be valuable for people to see, because it told a universal story of life and death,” Jenkins said.
That story, told with the footage Jenkins shot, comes through in Jenkins’ documentary, “Instructions on Parting.” The Park City Film Series will screen the film as part of its Made in Utah series on Monday at the Park City Library’s Jim Santy Auditorium. A discussion with Jenkins will follow the screening.
“The film follows the trajectory of my child becoming a person to a four-year-old identity while my sister, brother and mom are letting go of their identities — jobs and possessions,” Jenkins said.
All three adults were very active in Summit County’s communities, according to the filmmaker.
Jenkins’ sister, Linda Matthews, who died from ovarian cancer, was a speech therapist at North Summit Elementary in Coalville. Her mother, Ellen, who was lost to breast cancer, was a visual artist and active member of Mountain Life Church, and her brother Craig Jenkins, who died of a rare intestinal cancer, was a painter who would participate in the Park City Kimball Arts Festival.
“Instructions on Parting” captures the family’s dynamic and support for each other, as they discussed life, religion and death, Jenkins said.
“These are conversations that we all should have as families, but don’t, unless we’re in the middle of a crisis,” she said. “While we’re not all terminally ill, we’re all mortal. And even when people have a terminal illness, they do continue to live until their time is over.”
Jenkins decided sharing the home videos in cinematic form would do more good than keeping them private.
“When I went back to look at the footage, I dawned on me that it may help people to see us, as a family, having these conversations,” Jenkins said. “I didn’t feel like it would be difficult to share them.”
Jenkins produced the film over a period of ten years.
“I took a six year hiatus after Craig died before I decided to look at the footage,” she said. “And then it took me another five years to learn how to edit and create a story, even though I was comfortable with the camera and software.”
The footage was shot in three locations – Park City, New Hampshire and Southeast Utah.
“Park City is where I primarily shot the scenes shot within my parents’ home,” Jenkins said. “(The New Hampshire sections) are scenes that are primarily in my yard, and I took the canyon footage while on a trip with Craig and my father.”
Jenkins interspersed the indoor shots with outdoor scenes to show the cycle of life while she and her family dealt with the process of death.
“Nature is like a form of visual meditation, and I would spend a lot of time in my yard filming,” she said. “I didn’t realize until I started putting the film together that these scenes coincided with the story.”
The process of editing deeply personal footage was challenging at first.
“It was because I would relive the experiences, but what was on the tapes was quite beautiful, and that’s why I decided to make the film,” she said. “People, like my father, asked if making the film would make me sad. But it was joyful for me because I was able to spend time with my family again.”
The filmmaker is honored she was asked to screen the film in Park City, her family’s hometown.
“It’s really an amazing experience, for me, to bring a film to a community that was so supportive of our family while we were going through all this,” Jenkins said. “It means a lot to me to bring it back.”
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The film captures a transparent self-portrait of the American wilderness, emphasizing the importance of communication that goes beyond listening for the sake of responding.