Documentary recommendation: This Dust of Words

Synopsis: Elizabeth Wiltsee taught herself to read at age four. By age ten, she had taught herself classical Greek. And not long after, Chinese. A voracious and creative intellectual with a 200 IQ, Elizabeth was an avid reader, a voluminous writer and a standout student at Stanford University. Decades later, she could be found sleeping outside the church doors in the small farming town of Watsonville, California, her beautiful mind ravaged by mental illness. Using Elizabeth’s own personal letters, excerpts from her poems and books, and stories from those who knew her best, this moving documentary tells the story of a troubled soul and of the community that, rather than shunning her, embraced her.

This Dust of Words, titled after Elizabeth Wiltsee’s Stanford senior honor’s thesis on Samuel Beckett, unfolds like a mystery with her former professor struggling to explain the unusual life and eventual disappearance of his prize student. As much as it laments Elizabeth’s unfortunate descent into madness, This Dust of Words celebrates the surprisingly benevolent nature of the town that sheltered her. Speaking with some of Watsonville’s openhearted residents and the parishioners of St Patrick’s Church, director Bill Rose composes both an elegy on a life lost and a celebration of the charitable nature of humanity

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