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This Dust of Words

February 16, 2013

Cinequest 2008

dustAfter the Shorts I ran right back into line to get into the next movie, This Dust of Words. I had sadly missed this last weekend and was really glad I had a chance to see it today. I was not disappointed.

It is the story of Elizabeth Wiltsee, a Stanford graduate and English major with an IQ of 200. As a young girl she taught herself to read ancient Greek and other languages, and even translated Homer herself to make sure she had an accurate translation. She was a prolific writer but never got published. And one day, she just went away.

It appears that she must have suffered from some sort of mental illness, but I don’t believe it was explained (or maybe not known) exactly what it was. At any rate, she separated herself from her family and friends, became paranoid, and eventually showed up on the steps of a church in Watsonville, homeless. The documentary is told through Elisabeth’s writings and interviews with her family and the parishioners who knew her. Many of them were very honest about their fear of the angry homeless woman. And many of them became her friends, at least to the point that she would let them. It appears that she was homeless because she wanted to be outside, she did not want to be inside any buildings. She often was mesmerized by animals and birds she saw, and many people had seen her talking to the Watsonville welcome sign as if she were speaking to God.

dust2Eventually she leaves Watsonville after saying that she is “going home” and six months later her body is found floating in a lake many miles away. From what I understand, it is believed that she just stopped eating and walked herself to death. She also had $7000 in a bank account.

I was fascinated by this story. I felt in a way that I understood her a little, at least before she became really far gone. But I was not sad when the film explained that they had found her body. I felt like Elizabeth really had finally gone home, to a home where she had wanted to be. I felt like she was finally free like the birds she used to watch, and that her mind, which used to race all the time, was finally free to rest.

I give it an A+, and you should see it if it ever shows up on TV or a festival near you.

You can read more about Elizabeth Wiltsee at these links:
This Dust of Words website
Stanford Magazine
Santa Cruz Sentinel

Now availablel on DVD and Instant Video!

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