Charged offers an intimate view into Eduardo Garcia’s survival story and his quest to reshape himself physically and, most importantly, mentally
Eduardo Garcia, known today as the “Bionic Chef,” received an electrical shock of 2400 volts six years ago that completely changed his life. He was venturing through Montana’s back country when he checked a dead bear cub with the tip of his knife without knowing there was a power line under the animal’s body. Eduardo’s girlfriend, Jennifer Jane, was in England at the time when she heard of what had happened. She booked the first available flight to the United States and, while waiting at Heathrow Airport, she contacted the surgeon who was about to perform Eduardo’s first surgery. The doctor warned Jennifer about the surgery’s elevated risks and advised her to say anything she had to say to Eduardo now, for that could be the last time she could ever speak to him again.
The incident left Eduardo with several wounds and the title of “bag of bones with a heart beat,” which was the Salt Lake City’s Burn Trauma ICU’s description for his state. Holding on to those heart beats, he went through twenty-one surgeries and, after making a hard decision that could end his career as a chef, had his left hand amputated. The doctors warned Eduardo that keeping his left hand could later bring him medical complications. Besides, his hand would not be half of what it once was. Determined to fight for his life, he lost his hand knowing the decision would have a huge impact on his future endeavors.
Jennifer arrived at the hospital and remained by his side during his whole recovery process. Although Eduardo had proven himself unfaithful months before the accident, she chose to care for him because, in her words, “we love who we love.” During his recovery, Jennifer had the idea of filming his progress to later create a documentary on how he overcame this nearly fatal experience. The premise behind the film, she thought, would be to inspire others to overcome their hardships. After receiving many offers to tell Eduardo’s story, they finally decided to get together with some friends in film production to tell a more detailed story than what a fifteen-minute TV interview could tell.
Jennifer’s initial plan was to be directly involved in making the documentary, but Charged’s production team realized her significance in Eduardo’s story, and placed her in front of the camera. She wanted the documentary to inspire others through Eduardo’s experience, but everything they had gone through together was also a beautiful love story. Therefore, she gave all the footage she had to the documentary’s production, and became an important figure in the film.
Charged offers an intimate view into Eduardo Garcia’s survival story and his quest to reshape himself physically and, most importantly, mentally. The documentary succeeds in not only focusing on the survivor, but also in all the loving and caring people who were by Eduardo’s side throughout his hardest times, including Jennifer.
The Art House Cinema & Pub invited Charged’s producer, Dennis Aig, to talk more about the making of the documentary and its impact on the public.
ART HOUSE CINEMA & PUB: When did you first hear about Eduardo Garcia’s story?
DENNIS AIG: I first heard about Eduardo Garcia’s story in late 2013 while we were still working on our previous documentary film, Unbranded. The principal subject of that film, Ben Masters, stayed at Eduardo’s house in Bozeman, and that is how I met and found out about Eduardo.
ART HOUSE CINEMA & PUB: How did you become involved with the project?
DENNIS AIG: We were completing Unbranded, and Phil Baribeau, the director of both films, suggested that Charged be our next project. I became part of the discussions to convince Eduardo and Jennifer Jane to allow us to make the film. Once they agreed, we were fully in production.
ART HOUSE CINEMA & PUB: Jennifer initially wanted to be involved in making the documentary. When did the production decide that she should be a subject rather than being behind the camera?
DENNIS AIG: Phill knew both Eduardo and Jennifer since before the accident. He knew how important she was in Ed’s recovery, and we agreed early on that she would be a significant part of the film. We always intended that Jen’s role as caregiver would be given full weight in the recovery story, since many films about survivors of injury or illness usually give little, if any, attention to caregivers. We also always said this film was a survivor story and a love story.
ART HOUSE CINEMA & PUB: Did the production of Charged face any roadblocks?
DENNIS AIG: We did need to conduct a Kickstarter campaign to initiate the funding and then find additional people who would eventually invest the remaining money we needed. With the material we shot, the archival material, and Jen’s video work, we had almost too much footage. We needed to work through all of it, and, with our great editor, Tony Hale, figure out the best way to tell the story. We screened six versions for small but diverse test audiences until we found the right balance among all the elements.
ART HOUSE CINEMA & PUB: What are some of the biggest highlights you had during the making of Charged?
DENNIS AIG: There were several highlights. The great recovery Eduardo made was one them. The resolution of the relationship between Jennifer and Eduardo was another. Eduardo’s reconciliation with Manuel, his father, was as moving in real life as it is on film. The speech for the Bozeman High School students was stirring and revealed the power of Eduardo’s story. I remember watching in amazement as the young students opened up after hearing Eduardo talk about his experiences. He has an amazingly inspiring effect on people, especially those who are in pain and need to talk, however reluctantly, about their suffering. Wherever Eduardo speaks, that place becomes a safe zone in which people, no matter how young or shy, can expose their raw emotions and begin to deal with them.
ART HOUSE CINEMA & PUB: What do you want the audience to take out of this film?
DENNIS AIG: I would like the audience to see how Eduardo came through an experience that could have destroyed him and found redemption instead. I also hope audiences will see that the love between two people can transcend our normal definitions of a “relationship” to achieve a deep friendship that is truly positive and powerful. Love truly enables us to heal ourselves and others.
Charged will be playing at the Art House Cinema & Pub until October 19th. Do not miss the chance to see this inspiring and powerful film.
Director: Phillip Baribeau
Producer: Dennis Aig
Running Time: 1h 26m