With the support of the Mediafonds and VPRO Dorst we were able to produce our first long form audio series. By investigating the story of Elisa and Bob and constructing the storyline as we did, we wanted to approach the topic of dementia in a different way. Instead of highlighting the improbability of the story of this 84-year old woman, we decided to take her words seriously and worked through hours of tape to carefully listen to what she was trying to dig up from under the layers of time and the taboos of her youth.
We searched through libraries, city archives, tracked down several (wrong) family lines – the smallest piece of information was enough to encourage us to keep going. But there were also long periods of time in which we found nothing at all, which caused us to doubt the whole premise of the series. What if what we were tracing was merely a ghost? We found ourselves listening to Elisa’s words in a different way, with growing scepticism and doubt. When, after another long period of doubt, another clue surfaced, we were always brutally confronted with how easy it is to brush away the words of an 84-year old as improbable and untrue, how it is so much easier to not take people of a certain age and in a certain condition seriously, and how absurd this tendency actually is, considering the long lives they have lived and the many lost chapters of history they carry with them.
We crafted the result of this journey in 6 episodes, building in cliff-hangers, laying out our leads and hypotheses, and including all our doubts and concerns. We are audio story tellers, so we spend a ridiculous amount of hours on cross fading, choice of music, balancing of sounds. But what made this story so explicitly suitable for audio was its very universal bottom line: everyone has a mother, grandmother, or is to become one, one day, and everyone will be confronted with old age. By giving Elisa a voice but not a face, her words can resonate beyond the individual story. The imagination of the listener is never confined to this one woman, but will inevitably flow to the faces that they know and see before them. And this is why the most rewarding comments are those from people that have told us that they have started talking to their mother or grandmother in a different way, altering their focus and really learned to listen in a different way.