Oscar and Emmy-nominated filmmaker-author Frederick Marx Seeks to Reimagine Funeral Rites With New Film It’s Your Wonderful Life  

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Across all cultures worldwide, funerals are an outpouring of emotion and tributes to the deceased. Family and friends often give touching eulogies, illustrating how the departed made a huge impact on their lives and how much they meant to them. These are also accompanied by often lavish rituals, which embody the family’s and community’s grief over the loss of a loved one.

Multi-award nominated film producer, director, and author Frederick Marx says that, while funerals do serve a legitimate purpose in society, it could be of greater benefit if the community would also come together and honor a person while they were still alive. He proposes the holding of life-honoring ceremonies, where people close to someone who is terminally ill or of old age gather with them and speak about how they touched their lives and provide an opportunity to say goodbye.

“This ceremony turns a funeral on its head. We shouldn’t wait to gather until after someone dies to speak wonderful things about them. I believe we need do it while they’re alive, and speak it to their face. This way, we get to let them know about the ripples of positive change that their life has made to the world around them. It underscores our interconnectedness and builds community, and it also lets every individual know and appreciate how much impact they’ve made in their lifetime. I believe no one should leave this life with anything less.”

Exploring this idea, Marx is producing a film, titled It’s Your Wonderful Life, which seeks to normalize celebrating a person’s life before it ends. It’s a deeply personal film for Marx, as it chronicles the lead-up to the death of his wife, Tracy Seeley, in July 2016 due to breast cancer.

“I had the opportunity to get intimate with death and dying when I escorted my late wife to her death. We did a life honoring celebration for her, which turned out to be 12 days before she died.”

In 2018, Marx authored At Death Do Us Part, a memoir about his 13-year marriage with Seeley and her eventual illness and death. He also describes his grief and the realities of facing life after the death of a loved one.

According to Marx, he got the idea to hold a celebration for someone’s impending death many years prior, after a friend, who died in 2004, held one such gathering, bringing together the person’s extended network of associates in Chicago as a tribute to his life. The film will also examine various indigenous cultures around the world that have similar practices.

“It was no easy challenge just to convince her to hold the celebration. She was a brilliant English literature professor and was very open to all kinds of new things. But she was quite an introvert and she saw it as an exercise in ego, and I tried really hard to convince her otherwise.”

Marx believes that mainstream culture holds talking about death as taboo, and, as a result, many people end up living in denial about mortality – both their own and their loved ones’. The subject of death is often avoided, and young people often grow up without experiencing loss.

“In the past, young people had the opportunity to see death and dying up close, as they often lived with their grandparents and had the opportunity to say goodbye before they passed. But now, it’s all separate, and grandparents often live far away or at a nursing home. And COVID has made it worse. So many people have died isolated from their friends and family. Instead, they’re in hospitals, hooked up to machines with no opportunity to be in community as they pass. I believe this is a social crime.”

It’s Your Wonderful Life is being produced by Warrior Films, a non-profit company that creates visionary documentary films that draw attention to important social issues while telling captivating human stories. It is a donation-funded effort, and Marx and Warrior Films are looking for partners to distribute the film to a wider audience, especially in the age of online streaming.

“My hope for the film is that it will encourage people everywhere to hold life honoring celebrations for their loved ones of any age, not just the elderly and infirm and especially those who are terminally ill. It may be awkward or hard to accept at first, but it’s actually very simple to do. I look forward to the day when, whenever we learn about somebody in our sphere who’s close to passing, we can all step up to the plate and organize something like this.”

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