Home Speech-Language Pathology “After Words”: The Story Behind the Film

“After Words”: The Story Behind the Film

by Jerome Kaplan
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(photo credit – Aphasia Community Group) 

In 2000 I produced a program called “Faces of Aphasia,” which was held at Boston University. It aimed a spotlight on aphasia and the Aphasia Community Group of Boston. Now beginning its 24th year, the Group is one of the oldest support groups of its kind.

“Faces of Aphasia” introduced aphasia to the community through the performing arts. It featured the first public performance by acclaimed mezzo soprano Jan Curtis following her stroke. Actor/playwright Joseph Chaikin performed “Struck Dumb,” a monologue on the inner thoughts of an aphasic individual. “The Other Voices of Aphasia,” an original piece by group co-founder Judy Blatt, was performed by family members. A staged reading of “Night Sky” by Susan Yankowitz, a play about aphasia, was performed by individuals living with aphasia. It was filmed and used as a teaching tool in communication disorders graduate programs.

Inspired by “Faces of Aphasia,” Emmy Award winning filmmaker Vincent Straggas and I created the documentary “after words 2003,” which premiered in Boston in June, 2003. It featured vivid portraits of members of the Aphasia Community Group as well as internationally acclaimed celebrities such as Tony Award winner Julie Harris, Academy Award winner Patricia Neal, Grammy Award winner Bobby McFerrin, Robert McFerrin, and Annie Glenn Award winner Jan Curtis, all of whose lives were touched by aphasia and related disorders. “after words 2003” opened to wide acclaim and was embraced by the public and in academic, rehabilitation, community, and medical settings.

A new documentary, based on the original film, and comprised of new portraits and interviews has been produced and is currently airing on public television stations around the country. Co-produced by me, Vincent Straggas, ASHA fellow and executive director of the National Aphasia Association Ellayne Ganzfried, the new “after words” features neurologists, authors and clinicians including Nancy Helm Estabrooks, Ellayne Ganzfried, Jerome Kaplan, Howard Kirshner, Marjorie Nicholas, Oliver Sacks, Martha Sarno, and Gottfried Schlaug. It profiles individuals living successfully with aphasia, presents different types and severities of aphasia, including primary progressive aphasia, explores aphasia’s impact on families, discusses legal implications of aphasia, and explores the life participation approach to aphasia.

“After Words” is currently being distributed to public television stations nationwide. However, it is up to each individual station to include it in their schedule. While it has already aired in a number of cities, it has not yet aired on the majority of public television stations. Therefore, the producers of “After Words” encourage the aphasia communityspeech-language pathologists, state and local speech-language hearing associations, aphasia support groups, rehabilitation centers, individuals touched by aphasia—to contact their local public television stations and urge them to air “After Words.” We anticipate a new wave of airings to occur in the months to come, following the program’s re-distribution to public television in mid-January. Thus, contacting local stations, and in particular, program managers at these stations, when the film is re-distributed, would be especially timely.

We hope to bring this important program to the widest possible audience.  Take a look at the trailer:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GW-TDmQMTVc]

Jerome Kaplan is an SLP and founder of the Aphasia Community Group of Boston.  Working with artists, actors, musicians, filmmakers, and members of the aphasia community, he has developed projects to raise aphasia awareness and understanding by illuminating the world of aphasia and promoting the life participation approach to aphasia.  His latest project, “after words,” a documentary about aphasia, is currently airing on public television. 

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JENA CASBON January 15, 2013 - 4:10 pm

“After Words” is a fantastic documentary that highlights the strength, struggle, triumph, commitment to recovery, and quality of life of people with aphasia. As a clinician and educator, I found it to be simply wonderful and worth sharing with as broad an audience as possible. I hope that PBS will make it available for all to see.

Jena H. Casbon, MS CCC-SLP

Becca January 16, 2013 - 11:07 pm

Amazing film. A beautiful blend of the profound emotions that come with living a life with aphasia and information about aphasia. It reminded me so clearly of why we do what we do as SLPs….and how much we need to remember to see the beauty along with the pain.

Chad January 19, 2013 - 11:43 am

My mother has had aphasia for twelve years after a major stroke. I try to explain the condition to friends and colleagues and, after a lot of explaining, they might understand the condition and the nature of my mom’s limitations around communicating. But After Words is the first documentary that really captures what living with aphasia is like. It depicts the broad range of types of aphasia, the challenges for those who have it, and the impact on family members and friends when a loved one has aphasia. I’m so grateful to the filmmakers for making this film and hope that it gets broad and repeated play.

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