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Film Review: “I Remember Me” by Kim Snyder

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By Deborah Cooper • • March 13, 2001

Editor's Note: To read an interview with filmmaker Kim Snyder click on this link: Go to Interview

People with CFS often face the frustrating challenge of conveying the disease’s devastating impact on their lives to family and friends. Fortunately for the entire CFIDS community, I Remember Me more than meets this challenge.

I Remember Me, is a visual rendition of what it feel like to be struck down with CFS. This documentary film skillfully interweaves abstract imagery, sound and a powerfully compelling narrative to tell the story of CFS.

Snyder, in her directorial debut, uses the story of her own battle with CFS to tell the story of many people with CFS. Not that each person has faced different challenges along the way, but the universality of the illness, striking down people from all walks of life, is starkly brought home through Snyder’s story. She chronicles her illness almost from the start and intersperses still photography taken when she was at her sickest, to hauntingly show her life with CFS.

Yet, Snyder’s film is not limited to her own sickness. Luminaries such as soccer star Michelle Akers and film director Blake Edwards all talk about CFS and Keith Jarrett contributes a beautiful score. Snyder also interviews leading CFS doctors such as Daniel Peterson, David Bell and Nancy Klimas and counterpoints their experiences with interviews from CDC experts and various medical naysayers.

The film is full of scenes that seem to crystallize the impact of CFS into single moments of wisdom. At one point, Nancy Klimas says that, “My days when I see AIDS patients are positively uplifting, compared with my days when I see CFS patients. At least my AIDS patients know exactly what they have, where they are at, and we know the interventions.”

The film also pivots around the ordinary stories of ordinary people. One boy Stephen is a bedridden eighteen year old. He was struck down with CFS at age sixteen but somehow managed to get enough grades to graduate from high school. He hasn’t been out of his house for six months, but he is determined to achieve his personal goal of attending high school graduation. Snyder follows Stephen through graduation day, wheeled around by paramedics on a gurney. The overwhelming impact of Stephen’s loss really hits home when he meets his classmates for the first time in two years. They are all glad to see him, but none had come to visit him. People are embarrassed and do not know what to say to him. But for Stephen that day, even lying on a gurney, represents a huge personal achievement and inspiration for all who suffer from the disease.

Snyder constantly raises eyebrows and causes the audience to sit up and take notice. She brings together a group of women from Punta Gorda, Florida who lived through an outbreak of CFS in the late 1950’s. At the time they were labeled as hysterical hypochondriacs. On camera, the doctor who described the women that way now regrets using such a harmful description. The women talk about their suffering for the first time in forty years. What is obvious is that their experiences are so similar to people’s experiences of the disease now. However, the audience is left with the impression that the public’s perception of people with CFS has progressed very slowly since then.

The outbreaks of CFS at Incline Village, NV and Lyndonville, NY are also outlined and Snyder visits survivors and doctors involved at the time. What is clear from all of their narratives is the complete lack of interest from the government at the time. Experts were sent from government agencies but many of the residents were not even aware that the same experts had made reports about the outbreak.

Snyder said, “I feel being able to make this movie is restoring a sense of dignity in the face of suffering.” No one who sees I Remember Me will be able to doubt the veracity of CFS and the very real and devastating impact it has on the lives of it’s sufferers.

Editor’s Note: The film can be seen at the Cleveland International Film Festival on March 22 and 23, and then at the Taos Talking Picture Festival in New Mexico, on April 6 and 7. Snyder is working on a distribution deal that should see the film’s general release on VHS video by the end of the year.

Next week– an interview with the film’s director and Chronic Fatigue Sufferer, Kim Snyder.

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