A distinguished poet, translator, critic and teacher, Edwin Honig wrote dozens of books and poems that attracted critical praise around the world. His seminal translations awakened English-speaking readers to previously overlooked literary giants, resulting in honorary knighthoods from the king of Spain and the president of Portugal.
In FIRST COUSIN ONCE REMOVED, acclaimed documentary filmmaker Alan Berliner’s paints a deeply personal portrait of his “good friend, cousin and mentor” as Honig journeys through the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss. A stark reminder of the profound role memory plays in everyone’s life, this moving essay on the fragility of being human.
Shot over the course of five years, FIRST COUSIN ONCE REMOVED documents Honig’s condition with care and compassion, displaying the same raw honesty that resonates in his poetry, written during a life steeped in tragedy, love, loss, irony and literary daring.
In addition to numerous visits with Honig at home and compelling conversations with his estranged children, ex-wife, friends and former students, the film portrays his metamorphosis through archival imagery, family photos, home movies, poetry readings and Berliner’s search for creative visual metaphors to provide a better understanding of memory loss. The result is a vivid portrait of a wordsmith who, although he’s lost his memory and command of language, retains an enduring playfulness, a charming sense of humor, a sublime musicality and the essential bearings of a deeply poetic soul.
FIRST COUSIN ONCE REMOVED received its world premiere at the 2012 New York Film Festival and has been invited to festivals worldwide. It received the Grand Prize for Best Feature Documentary at IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam) in 2012, where the jury praised Berliner for employing “intelligence, inventiveness, and a poetic sensibility to create a film that uses the onset of Alzheimer’s to make a beautiful, moving, and artistic statement about the intersection of personal history and memory.”
Hailed by the New York Times for his “powerful, compelling and bittersweet” work, New York filmmaker Alan Berliner is one of the most original voices in documentaries today. His previous credits include “Wide Awake,” which debuted on HBO in 2007, plus “The Sweetest Sound” (2001), “Nobody’s Business” (1996), “Intimate Stranger” (1991) and “The Family Album” (1986). Berliner’s documentaries have been shown all over the world, receiving awards at many major international film festivals. All of his films are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
For more information on the documentary, visit: Facebook.com/hbodocs; and Twitter: @HBODocs #FirstCousin.
FIRST COUSIN ONCE REMOVED is an HBO Documentary Films presentation; directed, produced and edited by Alan Berliner; co-produced by Shari Spiegel; cinematography by Ian Vollmer. For HBO: supervising producer, Lisa Heller; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.