Vol. LXIII, No. 24
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Eric Daniel Metzgars documentary, Life. Support. Music., which tells the story of guitarist Jason Crigler and his dramatic recovery after a massive brain hemorrhage, was screened at the Princeton Public Library last Wednesday. The filmmaker was on hand to discuss his work.
A prominent guitarist who composed his own work and had played with artists ranging from Norah Jones to Marshall Crenshaw, Mr. Crigler suffered a stroke at a gig one night, and was rushed to a hospital, where doctors predicted that he would not last the night, and that if he did, he would be fully paralyzed and unresponsive.
At the time, his wife Monica Crigler was three months pregnant with their first child. She described the initial prognosis as something that stopped time; I think I left my body. I remember thinking, This cannot be true. I cannot go on without Jason.
The film paints a stunning portrait of Mr. Criglers family members, who rallied around him to assist in the rehabilitation process and were instrumental in his miraculous recovery.
Now, five years after the trauma, Mr. Crigler is back playing shows, composing, and being a husband and father.
During the discussion after the screening, Mr. Metzgar explained that he had met Mr. Crigler in 1999, and had become friends with him while they were both playing in the same band. Having visited Mr. Crigler in the hospital immediately following the incident, Mr. Metzgar admitted that the situation seemed dire. He was kept informed through e-mails that Mr. Criglers wife, mother, father, and sister would send, updating friends on his status.
When he was approached by Mr. Criglers family to chronicle their story, Mr. Metzgar, who had then recently completed another documentary entitled The Chances of the World Changing, agreed to the idea.
Incorporating interviews, home movies, hospital training tapes, and concert footage, among other imagery, this well-paced documentary was filmed over two years. I wanted the focus to be on the familys optimism and Jason simultaneously kept getting better and better, Mr. Metzgar said.
The film alludes to struggles with insurance companies over possibilities of care, and tensions with doctors who advocated that Mr. Crigler be placed in a nursing home halfway through his rehabilitation treatment. Instead, the family brought Mr. Crigler home, and continued therapy there.
The main hub of his life is his family theyre this core unit, Mr. Metzgar explained, adding that even Jasons divorced parents are best friends as a result of the experience.
Mr. Metzgar remarked that Mr. Crigler describes playing music as feeling better now than it did before the injury. He says that he is more present, and can experience it more intensely.
Doctors who have seen Mr. Metzgars film all acknowledge the importance of Mr. Criglers family in drawing him back into the world, through their constant presence and in constantly stimulating Mr. Criglers brain, adding that they see the process of recovery and seemingly hopeless situations in a different light as a result of the film.
This thing is what has defined him now, Mr. Metzgar noted, adding with wonder that Mr. Crigler will say, and his family will say, that essentially, theyre glad it happened.
More information about the documentary can be found at lifesupportmusic.org. The DVD can be checked out at the library, and the film will be screened on PBS on July 7 at 10 p.m. Mr. Criglers music can be heard at jasoncriglermusic.com.
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