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By: A.V. Brown – May 12, 2018

    As our small following of fans may notice, our company To Shibalba has not released a film in quite a while. It’s not to say we haven’t had a narrative short brewing that is incredibly beyond the technical aspirations of past films we have made, but thats not why I am writing this blog. It’s coming one of these days. I could blame it on the fact that we underestimated the utter size and scope that an albeit small but full scale film festival will do to creating new film time, but again, thats not why I am writing this blog. I am writing this blog because we have indeed made another film, and you can see it tomorrow, for Mother’s Day.


    All of my work is in one way influenced by the death of my mother. Now it might be about heroin addiction, killer turkeys, or viewmaster toys, but all of those ideas stem from that massive void that was left in my life when I was 14. The truth that most people don’t know is that I have actually been filming things my entire life. First my friends and I made wrestling films first with a full size VHS camcorder. These translated into “F&B Comedy Time” in 1998 with many of the friends (aka wrestlers) I hung with. This was a favorite of my moms, and theres even a few ‘hard’ edits where my mom made me cut out the swearing. “The Turkey” which I wrote in 1994 was never intended to be a film due to the lack of viable turkey actors, but being it was my moms favorite story, we decided to make it in 2015. My mom influences all my work to this day, but it’s the film we made in 1999 that remained an enigma of sorts.

The truth is 

the moment she found out 

what kind of cancer 

she had she knew

 it was going to 

kill her.

    My mom was diagnosed in the summer of 1998 with a rare form of cancer. I was the last of the kids to find out about her being sick, but I was the surprise baby and quite a bit younger than my brother and sister, so it makes sense I guess. I happened to talk to her one evening when she was half asleep and noticed her hair was coming off her head. I could see what looked to be a wig. I asked her what was going on and she got very defensive which was unlike my mom. She sat up and said “leave me alone, I’ve been stressed, I lost some of my hair”. I was baffled, I cried and was angry for not knowing about this. The next few days of 8th grade were awkward, I kept thinking “how was she that stressed to lose her hair”, “It couldn’t really be cancer”, and a never ending array on ongoing thoughts that couldn’t possibly end in my mom dying. My dad said the same thing, “she’s really stressed, don’t stress her out more”. A few days later we talked about it. I remember sitting in the living room and my dad sitting there being the man he still is today; supportive, caring, and willing to do anything for those he loves. My mom said she was sick, she was fighting and they thought she would beat it. She tried to play it off as it was very curable, but I could tell she didn’t really believe it. The truth is the moment she found out what kind of cancer she had she knew it was going to kill her.

    The next 9 months were a whirlwind. My mom fought the cancer with everything she had. One morning early before school, it all got really real. It still plays out like a nightmare in my mind. My dad and I had been getting up early and swimming, so I figured thats why the phone in my room was ringing at 5:15 am. I tried to sleep through it, but when I heard the voicemail I jumped out of bed and ran downstairs. It was my dads voice, desperate and afraid saying. “Andy. ANDY……ANDY……please help me.PLEASE……”. I found my dad on the floor with my mom, she was bleeding from her mouth. My dad was teared up and didn’t know how to help her. My mom mumbled and blood came out her mouth as she tried to talk. My dad somehow kept talking to her, “Diane, it’s ok, it’s ok, your ok, your going to be ok”. I’m crying, I don’t what the hell to do.

“Help me get her up into bed”, my dad said, “I already called the ambulance”.

“What…… what…… happened” I replied.

“She had another seizure, a big one”


    We got her up into the bed as she was somewhat regaining movement. I remember rubbing her foot into the carpet trying to wake her up, it didn’t do much. The ambulance came and took her. I’ll never forget when they took her out on the stretcher and her eyes locked with mine, full of fear and blood in her mouth. It was the first time I’d really seen her scared, and I’m sure that image will never leave my mind.


    I went to River District Hospital and she was awake and alert at that time, apologizing I had to see that.

“Andy your so strong for helping your dad, I’m so sorry you had to see that happen” she said. There’s a million of those selfless moments she had in those last months, thats just one example.


    Everything changed that day, they gave her 3 months or less to live. She came home late March to die. She declined risky surgery or any more surgery attempts at all. She wanted to die at home with her mind and with her family.

I jokingly call it today 

“The Dead Mom File’s”

    Here’s the 1999 movie. My brother said we don’t have any footage of her, let’s film these last few months. We fired up the VHS camcorder and recorded as much as we possibly could. There were two 3 hour tapes in total, what I jokingly call today “The Dead Mom File’s” (my mom and I were big X-Files fans). The tapes have been rarely watched. I watched them a few times shortly after her death, but since then they have been tucked away in a bin of my childhood.


    The only thing I remembered is that I couldn’t watch the second tape. I was filming her about a month before she died and she broke out in tears and said she wanted her mom. That shook me to the core. I gave up filming that day and that was the end of the tape..I thought.


    So about 2 years ago I discussed making a feature film about these tapes with Tyler (which might still happen one day) but was still very afraid to watch them. Needless to say the opportunity arose to make a short film about her and her memory. I decided to watch the tapes. The experience was beautiful and not at all like I thought it would have been. I watched them alone first, still hesitant to reach the second tape. I felt comfortable, I missed her, but I kept watching. I found myself searching to learn something new about my mom in these films, trying to listen to her words, her wisdom, what was it about her. And then I got to the second tape.

    I got to the part I dreaded, the part where she cries out, the part where I gave up. But wait, it goes on.

The most beautiful piece of film and my mother’s legacy is in those next few minutes in which I gave up filming. My eyes were so puzzled watching that there was still something on this tape. My brother picked the camera and filmed a few moments with her and my sister. It is these last few moments that spell out exactly who my mother was. And it’s the climax of the short film we made, so I’m not telling you.

    Anyways, we made a new movie. Actually, my entire family, Tyler and I made this movie. It’s a combination of my mom’s life experience through 3 films my family made. I would have called it, “The Dead Mom Files” but the title might not have been flattering to a wide release.

    I want to thank my many family and friends, especially Tyler for helping me write and create this to be appealing outside of just my family, my Aunt Tisha and Uncle Tim for the home video footage and carrying on my mom’s story, my brother and sister for filming those last minutes and taking such amazing care of my mother, and most of all my father for being strong and never fading in caring for those he loves.

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