It was about five minutes into viewing Enter the Faun that I shed my first tear, a tear borne out of my own recognition of the vulnerability and unfolding in this extraordinary 68-minute documentary from co-directors Tamar Rogoff and Daisy Wright, a film that follows the unlikely collaboration between Rogoff, a veteran choreographer, and Gregg Mozgala, a young actor with cerebral palsy who together deliver astonishing proof that each and every body is capable of miraculous transformation.
The truth is that I shed many tears throughout Enter the Faun. They were tears of joy and tears of sorrow. They were tears of familiarity and tears of embarrassment at the recognition I had spent years pushing my own body away from my soul. They were tears of discovery and curiosity and wonder and ache and absolute awe.
Actress Claire Danes described Enter the Faun better, perhaps, than I possibly could when she called it a "wonderfully unlikely buddy movie," a movie about a joy-filled, intimate and obsessive joureny toward opening that, because of that absolute surrender to the journey, challenges the boundaries of medicine and art and the stereotypes that we've all too easily, myself included, associated with disability.
Watching Mozgala is a revelation. I must admit that that as I began watching him, I scoffed. A classically handsome man who initially struck me as what we gimp pros like to call "high functioning,"
While Mozgala is, indeed, classically handsome and in many ways does qualify as what one would consider to be higher functioning as there is a wide range of potential challenges associated with cerebral palsy, the truth is I had allowed my own life biases to immediately create a judgment, an inaccurate one.
Then, I became swept away.
I became swept away by Mozgala's intimate surrender to possibility, to impossibility, to disability, to ability and to everything that this journey with Rogoff could possibly mean.
I became swept away by Rogoff's seemingly infinite curiosity and her willingness to explore and learn and be transparent and imagine the possibility that exists beyond science's knowledge.
I found myself learning from Mozgala, a man whose cerebral palsy may have seemed less pronounced yet whose cerebral palsy had in many ways defined his daily existence and self-perception and self-image and coping skills and relationships. I identified with his learning how to fall so as to turn it into a thing of laughter rather than humiliation. I identified with his former willingness to accept the limitations that had been imposed upon him by those who "knew" but didn't really know.
I thought he and I were different, but there it was - a bridge, a connector, a common ground.
As an adult with spina bifida and a double amputee myself, and one who has survived far longer than those who "know" expected, I have expressed myself artistically as an actor and a writer and a director and in ways that transcended my own self-perception.
Yet, here I was blubbering like a baby watching this relationship unfold between Rogoff and Mozgala that transformed minds and transformed bodies. I have always been more than a little bit afraid of dance, or anything truly physical for that matter, and watching this surrender and this transformation was mesmerizing for me.
Sometimes, the impossible just isn't...
I watched as this unknown project began, a narrow sliver of an idea that grew into something more called "Diagnosis of a Faun," an artistic weaving together of medical science and art and humanity. I watched the impossible unfold, Mozgala's lifelong awkward gait that never allowed him to truly touch the earth suddenly give him roots beyond anything imaginable.
Oh my, how I cried.
Enter the Faun isn't that which I despise, "inspiration porn," because it's truly transformative and raw and real and honest. Mozgala doesn't transcend his disability, but he dances right into it.
In capturing all of this on film, Rogoff and Wright have captured a rather miraculous documentary filled with moments of inspiration and education and transformation and so much more. They have captured the aching vulnerability associated with acknowledging one's own disability while also being unafraid of lingering in those moments and allowing them their space.
Oh my, how I cried.
I watched the other dancers learning how to dance with Gregg, one in particular with a sensuality and intimacy that transformed and spoke words unspoken.
The film's lensing is extraordinary, vibrant with humanity and spirit and electricity and humanity. The music by Justin Samaha just as alive and vibrant as these souls.
I fell in love with these people, Mozgala because of the richness of his humanity and the willingness of his soul to experience something new and different and Rogoff because of her illuminating brain and mind and heart and her willingness to take risks and create risks and explore stunning new worlds interpersonally and in her art.
The experience of Enter the Faun is everything I want a documentary to be, transformative and educational and life-changing and beautifully produced and both challenging and entertaining.
Indeed, our lives can be imperfect and our bodies can be imperfect and our films can be imperfect but in that imperfect lies, you guessed it, a different kind of perfection where the impossible becomes possible and the labels we've tattooed upon our souls are wiped away with laser precision by life-changing people and experiences and little miracles.
Indeed, little miracles.
Oh, how I cried.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic