Local filmmaker depicts the struggles of dementia in ‘Wooden Spoon’

By Taylor Pace

One Kitchener filmmaker is trying to raise awareness about the realities of living with dementia with the release of her latest film, ‘Wooden Spoon.’

The film is 24-year-old Savanna Oliver’s third project, and the biggest project she’s done thus far. Her first two films were student films, one rom com and one thriller, making Wooden Spoon her first professional endeavour. 

In a tear-jerking performance, the 25-minute film follows a day in the life of Robin (Rain Packota), a single mom who is simultaneously raising her son (Ewan Wood) and caring for Judith, her dementia-ridden mother (Jeanne Souter), while going through a vicious divorce with ex-husband Sean (Nick Mirka). 

It was filmed over the course of four days in an Airbnb in Kitchener in March 2020. 

Oliver was inspired by The Father, a 2020 film about an elderly man with dementia, who refuses assistance from his daughter, doubting his loved ones as well as his reality. 

“I just noticed there wasn't a lot of talk about it, and [dementia] is coming to be such a huge issue. I know friends who have parents struggling through [dementia], I’ve seen my parents struggle through it. It’s pretty common at this point, and no one seems to want to talk about it.”

It is shockingly common, with more than 747,000 Canadians living with Alzheimer's or another dementia. So far, the cause is unknown. 

She’s hoping her film will bring more awareness to the illness, and get people talking about it more.

“I’m hoping… it will give people an idea of what it really looks like. And then hopefully, more people will get interested, and maybe one day we’ll find a cure. Nothing’s impossible.” 

The characters and events in the film are inspired by true stories she’s heard from friends and family. 

“Everything that happens in the film is pretty much true,” she said. 

The divorce Robin is going through was informed by divorce she’s seen in her family.  

“It's what I brought what I bought from my childhood to help create that story and then other people's stories to really make this one big conflict.”

The name of the film comes from the wooden spoon that Judith tightly wields each time she’s experiencing memory loss or strong emotions/

“It’s a symbolic sign between the mother and daughter relationship… Every time [they fought] together, a wooden spoon always comes in the way. And it's also kind of like a symbol because as a kid, there's always that joke about your mom [chasing you] with a wooden spoon.”

The film ends with the spoon set aside, and the pair realizing they need to help each other more, rather than fighting all the time. 

“So it was the beginning of the relationship mending, in a way, which is a long process. But it’s the beginning of something brighter,” she said.

Her production company is called Unstoppable Films. She only registered it as an official company in 2020, but has been using the logo, which was inspired by her dog, since high school. 

“The logo was originally supposed to be for a dog training place or something. But I fell in love with film, so it went with me,” she said. 

Oliver first fell in love with film in her last semester of high school. She joined a film class just for fun, but quickly realized it was what she needed to do with her life. 

“It just kind of clicked. So right after that, I went directly to Toronto Film School, and I’ve been filmmaking ever since.” 

Oliver is hoping to get it in some of the upcoming film festivals, after which she’ll try to get it on a streaming platform for the public to watch. So far, it’s been accepted into the Toronto International Women Film Festival.

In the meantime, you can watch the trailer below. 

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