56 Ways of Saying I Don’t Remember is not a film I would have made about anyone else but Edwin Honig. It’s the culmination of decades of deep friendship, mutual trust, family kinship, artistic kinship, countless long walks, talks, and telephone conversations, often centered around Edwin’s insistence that art should always get to the heart of the matter – to the very bottom of things – an approach he valued in his life, applied to his work, and something I kept in mind throughout the making of the film.
As our ongoing conversations recorded the steady decline of his body and his mind, they also document the strength and stamina of his spirit, his innate charm and his ever-playful way with words. While the film approaches Edwin’s condition with compassion and humor, it also portrays Edwin’s life with the same raw honesty that resonates in his poetry, written amidst a lifetime steeped in tragedy, love, loss, irony and literary daring.
I was with Edwin the day he agreed to donate his brain to science, for Alzheimer’s research. I’d like to think that my film preserves Edwin’s amazing mind, and allows us to look at Alzheimer’s disease, remembering, forgetting, and in many ways life itself, in ways we never have before.
– Alan Berliner
For the past four years I have been chronicling the journey of my friend, cousin, and mentor, Edwin Honig – distinguished poet, translator, critic, and teacher – into the depths of Alzheimer's disease. Honig, who is now 91 years old, founded the Creative Writing Program at Brown University, where he taught for 26 years. He’s written dozens of critically acclaimed books and poems that have been published all over the world. His seminal translations of Federico García Lorca, Calderón de la Barca, and Fernando Pessoa awakened English speaking readers to the work of these literary giants, and he’s received honorary "knighthoods” from the King of Spain and the President of Portugal. Unfortunately, he remembers none of it...
Making 56 Ways of Saying I Don’t Remember was a critical part of a process that inspired me to make a much longer feature-length film portrait of my cousin, friend, and mentor, Edwin Honig, called First Cousin Once Removed.