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Ben Basem

Ben Basem is a documentary filmmaker, sound recordist, piano technician, and Hoosier. This is Ben's first short film. Basem's films seek to identify who people are by burying real events within their sensory experiences, leaning towards subjective perception rather than objective truth.


The story of Conversations Between Shifts unfolded in real-time. I accumulated over six hundred hours of visuals, voice memos, and field recordings. These artifacts formed an ebb and flow of eyewitness accounts and artful tone poems; the empathy and care my mother exuded juxtaposed an apathetic and immutable world. My time spent quartered away at home during the pandemic informed my approach to telling my mother’s story. With nothing to do but shoot and watch films, the documentary became a self-reflexive piece both about my mother’s experiences and my experience learning how to tell that story.

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Conversations Between Shifts

Ben Basem forms a year-long time capsule of his mother, Jeanette Alvarez-Basem, a veteran nurse who works between Chicago and Northwest Indiana. Jeanette leads a double life as a nurse and family member, and finds herself fighting labor injustices while trying to process the sudden loss of her mother.


The film engages with the two largest nurses unions in Chicago, SEIU Local 73 and INA. The subject of the film is my mother, an ICU nurse at UIH Chicago and a prominent INA figure.

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The turmoil, fear, and heartbreak of 2020 thrust nurses and other essential workers into a renewed spotlight of admiration and respect. As COVID cases surge and fall, nurses are still at work, helping us when we need it most. Support nurses and other essential workers as they fight for better and safer working conditions by supporting nurses' unions.

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Get to know more about CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN SHIFTS and the family from the film at

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Conversations Between Shifts is a beautiful gift from a son to his mother. In documenting her pain, hardship and struggle, he features her strength, her hope, and her determination. In this short film, you have all the feelings. Drawing you in immediately, the film brings back the anxiety and fear of lockdowns in 2020, but reminds us all of the kindness, love and support we found in those dark times. Following Jeanette Alvarez-Basem, a pillar of strength and support for her family as well as a healthcare worker on the front lines of the growing COVID pandemic, this film brings new levels of appreciation and understanding for our healthcare workers who were, and still are, our greatest human resource in combating the virus. While many are now without masks, and our government has eased restrictions to get us back to work, the pandemic remains present in our lives - even if only in the background. Conversations Between Shifts serves as a reminder of the ways our responses to the first waves of COVID were flawed and inadequate, how our government failed to act, and how that delay was deadly for many. It illuminates the fact that our hospitals are drastically underfunded, and that the very people who are tasked with saving lives, are risking their own. And all because "business as usual" values profits over people. A travesty. As we know, people who care the most about saving other people's lives are often labeled heroes, but only in name. Even after all we've learned since March 2020, we often don’t provide our heroes a good work life balance, days off to spend quality time with their families, or proper PPE to do their jobs safely, and healthcare voices fighting for change are often silenced. Conversations Between Shifts highlights the sadness, anger and frustration of the last 2 ½ years and is essential viewing for all those who are willing to put their personal politics in front of public health. As an eternal optimist, I do want to be hopeful that things will change. But why does there have to be so much struggle and pain and fighting, until the people in power will listen?

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