DOXA Fest: Dear Audrey delivers a love story for the ages

With Martin Duckworth and Audrey Schirmer. Directed by Jeremiah Hayes. Produced by Jeremiah Hayes, André Barro and Annette Clarke for the National Film Board

Canadian documentary filmmaker Martin Duckworth has spent decades telling the truth of others.

But the former National Film Board director and cinematographer is actually in front of the camera for some of his most gripping and candid moments on film. He comes in the feature documentary, Dear Audreywhich is available online at this year’s DOXA Documentary Film Festival.

Jeremy Hayes (Coil Injun, Rumble: Indians who shook the world) made this intricately nuanced story of the 89-year-old Duckworth’s life, which began on March 8, 1933.

“I came out of a feminist womb on International Women’s Day,” Duckworth says of her mother, Muriel, a noted peace and women’s rights activist.

There’s a hint of what’s to come when Duckworth reveals how he was reminded that he was born on a stormy night. And therefore, he was headed for a stormy life.

“I’ve been through a lot of storms,” ​​Duckworth adds.

Martin Duckworth’s career was rooted in telling the truth. He shows his frankness in Dear Audrey.

There’s something very compelling about a man who speaks honestly on camera about his flaws.

Duckworth candidly reflects on his first two difficult marriages before meeting Audrey Schirmer, a kind, courageous and extremely talented photographer who gave her name to the film.

In the film, Schirmer is in the middle stage of Alzheimer’s disease – she sometimes wanders off, needs help getting dressed, and communicates more often with soft touches rather than words. And Duckworth is totally devoted to her and their adult daughter Jacqueline, who is on the autism spectrum.

Duckworth, a former film studies professor at Concordia University, admits at one point that he has behaved very badly with his daughter in the past. He raised his voice and sometimes slapped her when she was much younger, not understanding the roots of her behavioral issues.

He confesses that he remains very ashamed of himself for having done this.

“Audrey stayed with me,” he said. “I’m so lucky to have had such a loyal partner.”

Audrey Schirmer’s character shines throughout the film.

The unspoken message is that through her example, she clearly made Duckworth a better man.

Dear Audrey is filled with moving moments showing Duckworth’s deep love for his wife, who taught photography for 16 years at the Saidye Bronfman Center in Montreal.

The scenes of their rambling and sometimes chaotic home are complemented by glorious 60s and 70s footage and imaginative black-and-white animation.

To top it off, the warm, discreet and authentic original music by Walker Grimshaw. It’s presented just enough to bolster this romance, but not enough to overwhelm it or get mischievous.

Anyone watching Dear Audrey will no doubt conclude that Hayes is a masterful filmmaker. It’s no surprise, then, that he’s one of nine filmmakers competing for DOXA’s Colin Low Award for Best Canadian Director.

Video of Dear Audrey – Official Trailer

Video: Watch the trailer for Dear Audrey.

( has articles on three of the other finalists in this category: Beyond Extinction: The Resurgence of Sinixt by Ali Kazimi Doug and the slugs and me by Teresa Alfeld, and Love in the time of fentanyl by Colin Askey.)


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