Three artists – Katie Dallam, Graham Sharpe and Alice Wingwall – reveal how their struggles with physical ill health has changed their ideals, their goals and their outlook in life.
It would be easy for Shoulder the Lion to be a depressing film about physical illness can rob from the artist. Happily, filmmakers Erinnisse Heuer and Patryk Rebisz have found three engaging subjects who, instead of allowing their spark to be robbed by their physical changes, struggle to find new ways to be fulfilled in their lives.
Each of the three subjects have a potentially tragic story; Graham Sharpe’s musical career was stopped short by tinnitus, sculptor Alice Wingwall lost her sight to a degenerative eye disease and Katie Dallam, in her first fight as a boxer, was hit so repeatedly that she suffered massive brain damage. Each of these remarkable people have managed to find a new passion in their lives; Dallam fought to rehabilitate herself and has become a powerful painter, Alice Wingwall – against all odds – has become a photographer and Graham Sharpe has found a new passion in staging music events rather than being part of them.
As well as telling the stories of the courage and strength of the human spirit, Shoulder the Lion also allows its subjects to be candid and honest about the struggles they face every day There is tragedy as well as joy here, as Wingwall explains why she often wears red, as Dallam reveals her struggles with speech and language, and the pain of watching the film which her life inspired (Million Dollar Baby) and as Sharpe tells how music, the thing he loved most in the world, is no longer a refuge for him.
The stories told as remarkable and moving, and are given an added lift and edge of beauty in the way that the film is shot. The documentary encompasses the usual methods of storytelling – talking heads, candid footage – and blends these with beautiful shots of the artists with their work, layered with flourishes of light, colour and image. This changes the film into a collage of work from the subjects and, ultimately, the filmmakers – Erinnisse Heuer and Patryk Rebisz – themselves.
In all, Shoulder the Lion is a powerful piece of filmmaking that celebrates the power of the human spirit, but allows its three subjects to be human and honest. Beautifully shot and eloquently told, this documentary is beautiful and engaging.