Film Reviews

REVIEW: Shoulder The Lion

Hot Docs 2015


USA, 74 min.
Directed by Erinnisse Rebisz and Patryk Rebisz
International Premiere

Shoulder the Lion is a beautifully crafted meditation on resilience and the power of men and women to overcome debilitating obstacles.

Through a series of intimate conversations filmed in-studio as well as a succession of stunning natural settings, the film explores the feelings of loss and suffering experienced when one loses the ability to do something they love.

Graham Sharpe is a musician who develops tinnitus (non-stop ringing in the ears) and finds himself unable to fulfill his dreams as a musician. Photographer Alice Wingwall, loses her sight but persists in making images with a camera. Katie Dallam is a boxer who suffers extensive brain damage during her first professional fight but soldiers on to paint and make sculpture.

All three subjects speak with candor and intimacy about their experience. For Alice, it is through her reliance on others that she continues to craft her photographs while Graham denies himself the pleasure of his art form and instead focuses on helping other musicians to stage their work. Alice remembers what it was like before macular degeneration took her sight. When learning to use the services of a seeing-eye dog, the people running the programme detail how they wear blindfolds for two weeks in order to experience true blindness. However, as Alice points out, after two weeks they get to remove the blindfolds, whilst she will never see again. Katie speaks of many years of always trying to find herself and realising that it is through her misfortune she has actually come to truly reach her own potential.

Artfully directed by Erinnisse Rebisz and Patryk Rebisz, the couple does double duty with Erinnisse editing and Patryk shooting the feature documentary. This is a first feature for the pair, whose previous industry and commercial experience supports the film’s highly creative treatment. Erinnisse deftly weaves Patryk’s gorgeously framed soft focus, wide angle, and highly stylized images using layering and overlays to create a stylish and evocative story.

The haunting and ethereal audio track by Keller McDivitt echoes the visuals in an elegant reflection of the film’s imagery. The result of this combination offers up a mesmerizing and gorgeous creative account of how the human spirit can overcome tragedy.

Shoulder the Lion is ultimately not a film about art, but rather a film about overcoming personal loss and tragedy. The art is just the means to the end. With that in my mind, I can’t help feeling a profound sense of sadness that Alice (the photographer) will never have the opportunity to actually see Shoulder the Lion.

Hot Docs 2015 Screenings
Wed, April 29, 9:45 PM
Scotiabank Theatre

Thurs, April 30 – 4:00 PM
Isabel Bader Theatre

Sat., May 2 – 3:00 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox

Click here for more of POV’s coverage of the 2015 Hot Docs Festival!

Acclaimed independent filmmaker Annette Mangaard has completed more than 16 films since 1984. Her work, which often merges the disciplines of art and cinema, has been shown on television, in galleries and at festivals and cinematheques around the world.

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