6,248 miles is the distance from Beijing to Los Angeles. But in the documentary short 6,248 Miles, it alludes to a distance that’s much harder to bridge than geography: Alzheimer’s.
The director, Jeffrey Wu, whose grandmother suffered from the disease, was born in the US but spent his early childhood in Beijing with his grandparents, who were his main caregivers. After a year of kindergarten, Wu’s parents took him back to Los Angeles, where he grew up far away from his grandmother.
In 2015, upon learning of the Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Wu traveled back to Beijing for a four-day trip with his father. He brought along a camera, hoping to record some precious moments with his grandma before the disease completely took hold. “I felt really determined,” he recalls. “It might have been my arrogance, but I just didn’t understand how much Alzheimer’s could change my grandma in just a year. I also underestimated how differently we would all view my grandma as a result. Over the course of four days, I went from determined to anxious and, then, to be honest, a little defeated at the end of it all. I realized how little I could actually do for my grandma.”
6248 英里，大约是北京到美国洛杉矶的距离。但在纪录片《6248 英里》（又名《我们中间的距离》）中，描绘了一种远比地理阻碍更难克服的心理距离——阿尔茨海默病。
影像工作者 Jeffrey Wu，他的奶奶正是阿尔茨海默病的患者。虽然他出生在美国，不过童年时候大多是在家乡北京度过，而爷爷奶奶是主要扶养和陪伴他的人。在北京进入幼儿园就读的一年后，父母将 Jeffrey 带回洛杉矶，从此定居在那里，和奶奶分隔两地。
At the end of the trip, Wu’s father told him, “Your intentions are good, but in reality, it’s not going to help. She doesn’t understand. The moment you leave, she won’t remember.”
It was a cruel but sobering statement. Wu’s grandfather remained by his wife’s side as the disease mercilessly progressed and the family even hired two around-the-clock caregivers, but the truth is that Wu himself was largely absent. This forced him to ask, “What role did I play as the American grandson? What more could I have done to help? How does my family maintain relationships when the distance between us seems insurmountable?” Plagued by doubt, he sought answers.
“After returning home from Beijing, I found myself sorting through the footage and piecing it together as a means of coping, an attempt to find meaning in it all,” Wu recalls. “Making films was always a way of expressing myself, but this was the first time I ever tried to tell my own story.”
Upon its release, Wu’s short film, which has been retitled The Distance Between Us, quickly gained traction in the U.S. and abroad: the Alzheimer’s Association of Los Angeles shared the documentary on their website, and a Beijing Alzheimer’s advocacy group included the film as part of their educational course for Alzheimer caretakers. It was also selected to be part of Culver City Film Festival and will be screened at the upcoming Asian Film Festival of Dallas in July.
旅程短暂，终有尽头。准备启程回美国时，爸爸向 Jeffrey 说，“你的意愿是好的，但并不实际。她不会明白的，你一走，她就忘了。”即使残酷，却一语道破现实。虽然爷爷始终守候在逐渐被病症吞噬的奶奶身旁，家人也雇请两个阿姨全天候照顾她，但 Jeffrey 无法参与这个过程，作为一个缺席的小孩，他始终在问自己：“我在家庭中扮演的角色是什么？还有什么是自己能做的？要如何维系家庭即使我们中间隔着这难以克服的距离？”种种疑问萦绕在他的脑海，他也一直在试图寻找答案。
“当我把这些素材拼凑在一起，试图从中找到一些意义，我才渐渐了解到这趟旅程是一种我去“面对”的方法。拍电影一直都是我表达自己的方式，但这是我第一次尝试讲述自己的故事。”Jeffrey 说道。之后，剪辑完的成片被更名为《我们之间的距离》受到海内外不小的关注——洛杉矶阿尔茨海默病协会的分享、北京的阿尔茨海默病倡导团体找上门，将影片作为教育资料、后来还入选美国当地的卡尔弗城市影展（Culver City Film Festival），并在今年七月将于达拉斯亚洲电影节（Asian Film Festival of Dallas）中播映。
Not long after filming, Wu’s grandmother passed away. Wu didn’t expect that four-day trip to be the last time he saw her. “She watched through all the cringey videos I made in middle school and high school,” he recalls. “She would dance in the living room even when I played classic piano songs off-key—she honestly supported anything and everything I did. I could do no wrong in her eyes. I think that’s what hurts the most because I was always young and naive while she was alive. I wasn’t old enough to truly appreciate everything she did for me.”
With this short film, Wu hopes to highlight the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s and stress the importance of people cherishing what time they have with family. The gnawing self-doubt he was originally afflicted with also gave way to clarity. “I not only want to advocate for Alzheimer’s awareness, but I want to advocate for people spending time their loved ones while they can before they can’t anymore.”
这部纪录片伴随着 Jeffrey 与奶奶最后相处的回忆，也把他带到更远的地方去，那些曾经盘踞他心中如乌云般的疑问，也逐渐明朗了。“我想借由这部片提升大家对于阿尔茨海默病的关注，以及即时陪伴家人的重要性，在你还可以做到之前。”