Docs That Rock

Life. Support. Music. On POV tonight

Not every music doc is a journey of self-expression or a celebration of sound. Sometimes it can be a matter of life or death. (Doesn’t that intro sound like a real TV promo line?) I’m dissembling here if only because the story in the music doc Life. Support. Music. is so powerful, horrifying and astonishing that I’ve had trouble writing cogently about it since it’s release last year. But tonight, it airs as one of the films in the excellent PBS documentary series POV.

Jason Crigler, New York City guitarist in the fraternity of musicians (playing with folks like John Cale, Marshall Crenshaw, Rufus Wainwright and Linda Thompson) had a CD and new baby on the way when he collapses during a gig. Rushed to the hospital, doctors inform the family Jason had a brain hemorrhage and that he may live the rest of his life in a vegetative state.

Eric Daniel Metzgar is a filmmaker and friend of Jason’s and seems to have been with camera at the moment of the tragedy. With his own footage and that obatained from the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, he’s crafted perhaps the definitive documentary about brain injury. Jason is frankly a ghost and his condition is shown unvarnished. Yet slowly, he begins a recovery that in both life and film is nothing short of miraculous.

Life. Support. Music. is intense and intimate. But only an expertly crafted film could make the viewing so emotional. This type of movie is almost built for a smaller screen. As for the music connection, artists like Norah Jones helped give concerts to raise money for Jason’s rehab. And when Jason returns to the stage for the first time since his injury, his relationship to music changes in unexpected ways. For one thing, his hands are gnarled tight, making him having to reinvent how he approaches his instrument.

When I saw it at Hot Docs last year, I had to unexpectedly leave the screening before it finished. But incidental to my knowledge and interest in the film, I’ve gotten to meet Jason through a mutual friend so I know how it ends from first-hand experience. But am looking forward to seeing how it ends on film tonight. To quote one last TV promo, check local listings for your PBS affiliate and times. Lots of good bonus content on the POV web site too. And check out Jason’s music as well.

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July 7, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment