In 2004, Jason Crigler‘s life was taking off. He was one of New York’s hottest young guitarists, his new CD was due for release and his wife, Monica, was pregnant with their first child. Then, at a gig in Manhattan, Jason suffered a near-fatal brain hemorrhage. His doctors doubted he would ever emerge from his near-vegetative state. The astonishing journey that followed, documented by friend and filmmaker Eric Daniel Metzgar in Life. Support., Music., is a stirring family saga and a portrait of creative struggle in the face of overwhelming tragedy.
After receiving the daunting medical prognosis, Monica and the Crigler clan took a courageous decision they would believe in Jason and, joining forces, conduct an intensive, round-the-clock care and rehabilitation program to bring him back to the life they believed was still in him. Musicians who had worked with Jason, including Norah Jones, Marshall Crenshaw and Linda Thompson, held benefits.
Weaving early footage shot by the staff of Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston showing Jason’s first excruciatingly slow steps and home movies taken after he came home with the reflections of Jason’s family, doctors and friends, Metzgar has crafted a poignant account of his friend’s return from nowhere.
“I knew Jason before this tragedy struck,” says Metzgar. “He wasn’t one of my closest friends, but he was one of my favorite people. I got a call ‘Jason’s in the hospital. It’s touch and go.’ A few hours later I was looking down at Jason on a hospital bed.
“For months, I was in the email loop, receiving occasional updates about Jason’s condition, Monica’s pregnancy, the surgeries, the setbacks. But these updates, sent by the Criglers to their vast web of friends, were more than just informational. There was an incandescent love in these letters. Later, when the Criglers asked if I would consider making a documentary about the whole saga, I knew their beautiful optimism amid the heaps of suffering would be the story. Of course, I underestimated the entire thing.”
Eric Daniel Metzgar is a Brooklyn-based filmmaker who owns and operates Merigold Moving Pictures. In 2006, he completed his first feature-length documentary The Chances of the World Changing, which was nominated for a 2007 Independent Spirit Award, won several festival honors and was broadcast as part of P.O.V.’s 20th season in 2007. Eric’s newest film, “Reporter,” which follows Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof through Congo, screened at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. His short film “Beholder,” created for the 2008 International Documentary Challenge, won awards for Best Original Vision, Best Writing and Best Use of First Person Genre. Metzgar is also an award-winning cinematographer and has shot for several Oscar- nominated directors, including Edet Belzberg, Dana Adam Shapiro, Liz Garbus and Steven Cantor.
Produced by American Documentary, Inc. and beginning its 22nd season on PBS in 2009, the award-winning P.O.V. series is the longest-running showcase on American television to feature the work of today’s best independent documentary filmmakers. Airing June through September with primetime specials during the year, P.O.V. has brought more than 275 acclaimed documentaries to millions nationwide, and has a Webby Award-winning online series, P.O.V.’s Borders. Since 1988, P.O.V. has pioneered the art of presentation and outreach using independent nonfiction media to build new communities in conversation about today’s most pressing social issues.
National Air Date: Tuesday, July 7, 2009 at 10 p.m. on PBS. (Check local listings.) The P.O.V. series (a cinema term for “point of view”), now in its 22nd year on PBS, is broadcast June through September, with primetime specials in the fall and winter.
Submitted by P.O.V. Communications Department