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BWW Review: Sedona International Film Festival Presents ON OUR OWN ISLAND


Ellie Dylan and Sky Dylan-Robbins's ON OUR OWN ISLAND is one of the featured screenings at this year’s Sedona International Film Festival (June 12th-20th).

BWW Review: Sedona International Film Festival Presents 

Vivid, lyrical, and loving! ON OUR OWN ISLAND steps courageously into the domain of dying and death. A film that is both an endearing and emotional homage to a husband and a father by his wife and daughter and a deep dive into a process that for many remains daunting and mystifying.

Over the course of two years, Ellie Dylan (the film's producer/co-director) and her daughter Sky Dylan-Robbins (co-director and cinematographer) document the passage of Steven Robbins in unflinching detail.

Thirty-two years into their marriage, after moving from the bustle of New York City to the lush Hudson Valley of New York State, with fresh expectations of a new stage in their lives, the family confronts devastating news. Steven is diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer ~ a totally unexpected hit for such an outgoing, vigorous and athletic man as he.

The two women bring impressive credentials to their endeavor. Both are literally stars in their respective fields: Ellie, a once renowned radio DJ in Chicago and New York; a three-time Emmy nominee for WABC TV's '70's reality show YOU!; and since 1986, the founder of Skyshapers, Inc., a company creating motivational entertainment products and programs for children. Sky, a former journalist at NBC News and the founder and executive director of The Video Consortium, a global network of leading nonfiction filmmakers.

Beyond their shared wealth of experience, they have brought their bountiful and unwavering hearts to the making of this film. And it shows as they share, with gentility and sensitivity, footage of the earlier and healthier Steven, striding the ocean's shores, participating in marathons and triathlons, thrilling to the rides of day trips with his family; of Ellie, alone in their Montauk home's attic, leafing through and reading the bound copies of love letters from their courtship and marriage; of Steven's treatments; and, be advised, of the real moments of Steven's passage to death.

In their commitment to grace Steven's memory, the film makers aim to fulfill a broader mission: in summary, "to ignite a quiet revolution by empowering people everywhere to take back control of their end-of-life experience;" to reduce the fear associated with dying; to inspire meaningful conversations among family, loved ones, medical professionals, and community members about end-of-life; to support the "growing natural death movement;" and to demonstrate that death need not be painful, frightening, or isolating.

In this regard, they meticulously follow the preparations for Steven's death ~ the purchase of a cardboard casket, the quiet care taking, the instructional words of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross on death and dying (On Life After Death). They introduce Ann-Elizabeth Barnes who helps families to lay out their loved ones at home and to carry out a three-day vigil following the preparation of the body." Mario Grimaldi, a licensed funeral director, speaks intelligently to the need to embrace rather than fear death.

As the tender scenes unfold of fulfilling Steven's wish that his ashes be cast into the sea, a love story that began by the ocean and ends at its shore is, for Ellie and Sky, a story that will never end. May his memory be a blessing.

In all its dimensions and angles, the movement of ON OUR OWN ISLAND is enhanced by Dominique Charpentier's expressive and comforting score.

And, in their fulfillment of this very special work, Ellie and Sky give the words of Kübler-Ross added power:

When we have done the work we were sent to Earth to do, we are allowed to shed our body, which imprisons our soul like a cocoon encloses the future butterfly.

And when the time is right, we can let go of it and we will be free of pain, free of fears and worries- free as a very beautiful butterfly, returning home to God.

ON OUR OWN ISLAND is one of the featured screenings at this year's Sedona International Film Festival (June 12th-20th).

Photo credit to Wingspan Media Productions

Sedona International Film Festival ~ ~ 928-282-1177 ~ 2030 W. State Route 89A, Suite A-3, Sedona, AZ

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