Wednesday, February 18, 2009 – 7:30 PM
USA 2007. Director: Bill Rose
A haunting, elegiac documentary to thwarted promise, This Dust of Words traces the life story of Elizabeth Wiltsee from a young writer of uncompromising talent to a lonely death at the age of 50, homeless and apparently beset by paranoid schizophrenia. With an IQ of 200, Elizabeth taught herself to read at the age of four and was translating classical Greek by the time she was ten. She attended Stanford University, where she was lauded as a student of unlimited potential. After graduation, the world could have been her oyster, but she shunned academe, and chose to live on the fringes, working as an au pair in Europe, in university libraries and as a proofreader. All this time, she kept writing and reading prodigiously – sending off numerous plays and novels to publishers (all of which were rejected) – as her mental illness insidiously progressed. In 1994, not managing very well, and unable to work, she moved to the town of Watsonville, taking a spare room in a little house. When she was evicted for erratic behaviour, Liz ended up on the streets, and took to sleeping on the steps of the local Catholic Church, a number of whose members reached out to her. In 1999, Liz left Watsonville, telling another homeless person, “I’m going home.” No one knew where she had gone until seven months later, when her skeletal remains were found near Pacheco State Park, a wilderness area some sixty miles away. In tracing the mystery of her life, Rose skillfully interweaves archival footage of Liz at Stanford with Wiltsee’s own writings and interviews with Stanford professors, parishioners from St Patrick’s and Liz’s brother, Chris. Colour, digibeta video, 62 mins.
Post-screening discussion with This Dust of Words director, Bill Rose, and Judy Graves, Coordinator of the City of Vancouver’s Tenant Assistance Program.
Bill Rose has been producing and directing documentaries and short films for more than 20 years for numerous clients. Rose has worked as an American Film Institute Directing Intern to filmmaker Martin Ritt, whose projects include the 1979 film Norma Rae and the 1990 film Stanley and Iris. Rose’s short films have been seen nationally on the Arts & Entertainment Network. Rose is the recipient of numerous film awards, including a Cine Golden Eagle, five Telly Awards and multiple Communicator Awards. His first feature documentary, The Loss of Nameless Things, has been named “Best Documentary” four times and has appeared in more than 20 film festivals. Rose lives in Palo Alto, California, with his wife and family.
Judy Graves, Coordinator of the City of Vancouver’s Tenant Assistance Program. Ms. Graves has worked with Vancouver’s street population for more than 30 years. In 2005, she began a pilot project to get homeless people off the streets, one by one. The Vancouver Homeless Outreach Project has been so successful it was recently expanded; 80% of the people it has helped are still in housing.
“This Dust of Words is a profound film about a tragic life.” – GEIST Magazine