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Mapping Alzheimer’s: A Journey of Friendship and Discovery is the culmination of a deeply personal and professional journey that began decades ago when my sister, Cristina, and I took a film class at Columbia University and began dreaming about working on our own film someday. Although our careers took different paths—I became a television producer and Cristina a university film professor—a series of encounters with the protagonists of this documentary, Dr. Kenneth Kosik and Dr. Francisco Lopera, put us in a front row seat to document the scientific exploration of two brilliant minds, united by their immense curiosity and humanity.
At its core, Mapping Alzheimer’s is a story of perseverance, hope, altruism, and the power of friendship. For us, as filmmakers, it’s also an opportunity to reconnect with the place of our birth, where we first read the stories set in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s mythical town of Macondo, in the Atlantic coast of Colombia, where an epidemic of memory loss doomed its inhabitants to forget “the names and notions of things.”
The curse that befell Macondo is all too real on a global scale. A staggering 50 million people worldwide are currently affected with the disease, and with no cure in sight, that number is projected to reach 152 million by 2050. Much of the increase is occurring in the developing world. Hispanics and African Americans have a disproportionate risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease for reasons that are not well understood. Despite this, both groups are less likely to participate in clinical studies and are underrepresented in research.
Anyone who has seen Alzheimer’s up close can attest to the toll it takes on those whose memories are stripped away, and on those who love and care for them. These are the portraits of some the loved ones who inspired our team to make this film.
Marisa and Cristina