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My Name Was Bette: The Life and Death of an Alcoholic (2011)

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A documentary about women's alcoholism chronicles the progression of the disease in Bette VandenAkker-a nurse, wife, and mother-who died in the fall of 2007. Filmmakers Sherri ... See full summary »





A documentary about women's alcoholism chronicles the progression of the disease in Bette VandenAkker-a nurse, wife, and mother-who died in the fall of 2007. Filmmakers Sherri VandenAkker-Bette's daughter-and Josh WE Hays employ interviews, family photographs, medical records, and court documents to provide a personal and detailed look at the physical, emotional, and mental toll of alcoholism. The film examines women's risk factors for developing alcoholism and relapsing from sobriety; depicts the physiological damage women suffer from drinking, due in part to their hormones; and explores the stigma, guilt and shame the prevent women from seeking timely treatment. The film also offers hope to those affected by the disease who seek to heal their pain and strained relationships. Written by Anonymous

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"Best Feature Documentary: Honorable Mention" at the Massachusetts Independent Film Festival, Boston, MA (2012). See more »

User Reviews

Superb documentary of alcoholic woman
26 April 2012 | by anorton-354-900925See all my reviews

At the conclusion of this powerful documentary chronicling her mother's life and alcoholism, filmmaker Sherri VandenAkker calls her an "accidental feminist." The film truthfully, even relentlessly, details the physical and mental toll drink took on the once beautiful Bette, an accomplished nurse who loved her work. Nevertheless, viewers are left with the portrait of a hard-working, courageous woman who succumbed to a disease rather than a pitiful, weak addict who chose indulgence over discipline. This dual vision--the struggling, lovable human being who became a recluse living in "an animal's den," as her daughter Krystyn White describes her mother's home--makes the film a lesson in both the dangers of alcoholism and the challenges women faced as workers, wives, and mothers in the late twentieth century.

VandenAkker provides solid evidence of how women's alcoholism differs from men's in devastating ways: why women are less likely to seek rehabilitation; the link between drinking and depression in women; and the greater stigma attached to alcoholic women. Throughout, she skillfully interposes folk art drawings by Parker Lanier, a recovering alcoholic whose pictures movingly illustrate the loneliness inherent in hopeless alcoholism and the spirituality and hope provided by Alcholics Anonymous's 12-step program. Bette never recovered, and VandenAkker does not shrink from the isolation and squalor of her mother's final years. Still, the determination and joy of her two daughters--both of whom speak with sorrow and love about their mother--and their belief that their mother's life had beauty and purpose despite its pain, will bring solace to those living with alcoholism and enlighten others about this family disease.

Highly recommended for academic and personal use.

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Release Date:

23 March 2011 (USA) See more »


Box Office


$10,750 (estimated)
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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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