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Hi.

My name is Gary Zidek. Welcome to The Arts Section. Tune into the radio program every Sunday morning on WDCB 90.9 & 90.7 FM or listen to it online here. I'll be showcasing a variety of arts & entertainment, as well as.highlighting some creative ideas.

Elizabeth Chomko's WHAT THEY HAD Has Audiences "Laughing Through Their Tears"

Elizabeth Chomko's WHAT THEY HAD Has Audiences "Laughing Through Their Tears"

WDCB’s Gary Zidek sits down with filmmaker Elizabeth Chomko to talk about her debut feature, WHAT THEY HAD.

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“A professor of mine from college told me that the more personal your writing is, the more universal it becomes. But this is really a lesson in that, that here I was thinking, that everything I was doing was so dysfunctional, and as it turns out, I think, it just is normal.” - Elizabeth Chomko, talking about audiences relating to WHAT THEY HAD.

 Elizabeth Chomko

Elizabeth Chomko

The heartbreaking effects of dementia and the often unsung heroics of caregiving are at the center of the new Chicago-set film, WHAT THEY HAD. It comes from first-time filmmaker Elizabeth Chomko, who wrote and directed the feature. 

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The film’s all-star cast includes two time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank, two-time Oscar nominee & Chicago’s own Michael Shannon, Blythe Danner and Robert Forester. The story revolves around a family’s efforts to cope with the deteriorating mental health of it’s matriarch, Ruth played by Danner.

 Hilary Swank, Blythe Danner & Taissa Farmiga in WHAT THEY HAD.

Hilary Swank, Blythe Danner & Taissa Farmiga in WHAT THEY HAD.

Chomko says the film’s story is intensely personal, the script was inspired by her own family. Chomko’s grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 17 years ago. Humor shows up quite a bit in the film, which night come as a surprise to some.  Chomko says those moments of levity, come straight from her memories of being around her mom’s side of the family.

 Michael Shannon, Taissa Farmiga, Hilary Swank and Robert Forester in WHAT THEY HAD

Michael Shannon, Taissa Farmiga, Hilary Swank and Robert Forester in WHAT THEY HAD

When it was time to cast the film, Chomko knew she needed four actors who seemed like they actually could be family members.

 Michael Shannon, Taissa Farmiga, Hilary Swank, Blythe Danner and Robert Forester in WHAT THEY HAD.

Michael Shannon, Taissa Farmiga, Hilary Swank, Blythe Danner and Robert Forester in WHAT THEY HAD.

The film has played at some prestigious film festivals ahead of it’s wider release this month. Chomko says it’s been incredibly rewarding watching audiences relate to her very personal story.

Check out the trailer to WHAT THEY HAD.

WHAT THEY HAD is playing in select theaters nationwide, including here in the Chicago-area, which is where it was filmed. Go to bleeckerstreetmedia.com/whattheyhad for more information.

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