Saturday, June 13, 2009

Thy Will Be Done


One of the folks I work with, Jacob Cunningham, recently completed his first film. It's a documentary about a paraplegic. I had the opportunity to view the film and I thought it was just stunning. A number of elements of this film differentiate it from the typical doc and I wanted to get the word out about it. The film recently opened the Ventura Film Festival.

Jacob met Carl Erickson at the apartments where he lived and the topic of what Carl did for a living came up. Carl said that he was the caregiver for Kevin Natale, a paraplegic. Carl went on to describe the circumstances under which Kevin was stricken down at the age of 14 by a bullet.

Kevin was at home when his 21 year old neighbor, Brian Adams, came over to the house and shot Kevin. To this day, no one really knows why Brian did this and Brian, now serving time, is not talking.

The film, chronicles the events leading up to the shooting and what Kevin has endured in the intervening 19 years since the shooting. The lives that have been shattered and all of the impact that this single event has had on those directly involved as well as those on the periphery.

Some of the things that stand out in this film are the truths that are presented. Some of it inspiring, some of it sad. Jacob does not gloss over the ugly parts of the story (such as Kevin and Carl's shared drug addiction) as many films of this type tend to do. This type of storytelling is, in my opinion, a much stronger form than many other docs that tend to gloss over the underbelly of a story.

Another aspect of this film is the fact that it it has had a measurable positive impact on the lives of those in the film. Jacob has a number of interviews with Brian's mom, Joyce. What struck me about this is that she is one of the innocent parties whose life has been forever changed by these events. Typically, in stories like this, the peripheral folks are glossed over or are judged. This is not the case here. You come away with a real feeling that this is really one of the true victims in all of this.

Jacob facilitates a meeting between Kevin and Joyce for the first time since the shooting. In the intervening 19 years, Kevin had reached a point of forgiveness for Joyce and Brian and conveys this in their meeting. Without Jacob's film, this might never have happened.

The film is very well paced and very engaging. It's well photographed and the viewer's interest is constantly maintained. There was only one shot in the film that I felt needed adjustment and after talking to Jacob he knew exactly the shot I meant before I described it and said this was one of the places he was planning to make a final adjustment on.

If you have the opportunity to see this excellent film, I urge you to do so. You will walk away with an insight into some lives that have endured a real tragedy and see some very strong people deal with this in both positive and negative ways.

Bravo, Jacob.

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