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The story of Gloria & me

Jennifer Zielinski

Assigned to cover the story of Gloria Taylor’s fight to die with dignity, two local Kelowna filmmakers ventured out on their most personal, heart wrenching endeavour yet.

Taylor was at the centre of a successful BC Supreme Court Challenge that briefly overturned the ban on assisted suicide. CBC’s The Fifth Estate would follow Taylor’s battle through the courtroom and through ALS, but the two cinematographers covering the story chose to take the assignment one step further by producing a very intimate one-hour documentary titled Gloria and Me.

For two years David McIlvride and Jiri Bakala watched the woman diagnosed with ALS go from able bodied and capable of getting around on her own, to being confined in a wheelchair.

“It wasn’t easy to work on this film for the first two months,” explains co-producer Jiri Bakala. “You are working with someone who is dying and everybody knows it. There is a lot of conversation about death and dying and the illness itself, so inevitably you start to question your own mortality.”

Over time the relationship with Taylor and the two filmmakers grew, and Bakala and McIlvride were treated like family members attending holidays and events.

However for McIlvride, his connection with Gloria would become something he would hold onto forever. He submersed himself into the documentary in a way that isn’t typically undertaken by filmmakers.

“Not only is he the voice of the narration, but he appears on screen with Gloria and later when Gloria passed on,” Bakala says. “It became very much a David personal film that he needed to tell.”

The court granted Taylor an immediate exemption from the law, making her the only person in Canada who could legally seek doctor-assisted suicide; or, as Taylor preferred to describe it, "assisted dying."

Yet in the end, everyone would be shocked with Taylor’s sudden unexpected death due to a severe infection.

“We were hoping we would continue filming with Gloria for months, possibly years into the future, because she was a surviver,” recalls Bakala. “You know most people are diagnosed and pass on within a fairly short period of time. Gloria survived her own diagnoses by a long shot, but this one (the infection) just got her.”

The documentary chronicling Gloria's battle of Lou Gehrig's disease, in ‘Gloria and Me’, airs on Knowledge Network on Tuesday, April 15, at 9:00pm.

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