A feature-length documentary about survival and perseverance that was produced by Montana State University film faculty and graduates will screen in Montana beginning this week.
“Charged: The Eduardo Garcia Story,” screens in Billings on July 20. The 86-minute documentary also has showings in Bozeman on Aug. 6, at the Covellite film festival in Butte beginning Sept. 12 and in Red Lodge on Oct. 7.
The film is produced by much of the same MSU-linked crew members involved with the popular, award-winning documentary “Unbranded,” including director and cinematographer Phillip Baribeau, who is a graduate of the MSU School of Film and Photography in the College of Arts and Architecture, and Dennis Aig, a professor in the school who produced both documentaries. And, like “Unbranded,” “Charged” also features spectacular Montana landscapes and an unforgettable and a dynamic protagonist. But, rather than unbroken mustangs, “Charged” features Eduardo Garcia, a courageous chef who makes his home in Gallatin Gateway near Bozeman.
Although he was born in California, Garcia grew up in the Paradise Valley north of Yellowstone National Park. A twin raised by a single mother, Garcia overcame a turbulent childhood by finding solace in the outdoors and confidence in culinary school. He advanced quickly as a caterer on yachts and eventually began catering celebrity events. He returned to Montana and made it his base as he continued his successful career.
Garcia and his then-girlfriend, Jennifer Jane, approached Baribeau several years ago to shoot and produce a trailer for an outdoor cooking show that would feature Garcia traveling the world while cooking meals outdoors.
“We spent six months to a year putting the trailer together, and Ed and Jen brought it to (a production company) to try to sell it to a network,” Baribeau said. “They were just about to sign with the Food Network when Eduardo was injured."
While hunting in Montana, Garcia came across a bear carcass in a large, unmarked, rusted metal can in Paradise Valley. Curious, he poked the dead bear with his hunting knife, sending 2,400 volts of electricity through his body. He survived the accident and staggered out of the mountains with multiple third-degree burns. When he was found, he was airlifted to the burn unit at the University of Utah Medical Center. His 50-day battle for survival in the intensive care unit was documented on film by Jane, who returned from her native England to help Garcia through the ordeal. She filmed each step of Garcia’s harrowing fight for survival, including his decision to amputate his hand in order to live and his diagnosis of testicular cancer during his recovery.
“For survival stories, it's rare to have such raw and emotional footage to work with,” Baribeau said.
When Garcia returned home to Montana for chemotherapy, Baribeau began filming different stages of Garcia getting back to life — trying to cook again, fly fishing, hiking for shed antlers and keeping his company together.
“Both Jen and I didn't know what we were filming for exactly but knew we needed to film these stages in case he got a TV show down the line or we decided to make a documentary,” Baribeau said.
The film also documents the accident as a crucible for Garcia’s growth as a human. In addition to running his business, Garcia is an inspirational speaker, mentor for disabled athletes and executive producer and host of “A Hungry Life,” an outdoor cooking series produced by Yeti Coolers. He has appeared on several television talk shows and has been featured in People magazine.
When Baribeau was finished with “Unbranded” he said he approached Garcia and Jane to make the “Charged” feature. Baribeau reassembled much of his “Unbranded” crew, including Aig and fellow MSU film graduates Will Lake, sound editor; George Potter, co-director of photography; and Korey Kaczmarek, cinematographer.
“We always tell our students an MSU film grad joins a professional network of alumni that lasts throughout his or her career,” Aig said. “As with most other film projects in Montana, the circle eventually comes back to MSU. What Stanford is to Silicon Valley, MSU is to filmmaking in Montana.”
“MSU has built the foundation of my career and has given tremendous support in everything we're doing,” he said. “Bozeman has continued to grow an amazing film community that has roots from MSU.”
Aig said that the two feature-length documentaries reflect Baribeau’s range as a director and cinematographer.
“He first created an epic adventure film and then followed that with an intimate survival and love story. I know of very few other documentary directors who have this range of abilities.”
Currently, “Charged” is receiving good reviews on the documentary film festival circuit, including the DocFest in San Francisco, where it was chosen as the best feature. It is also the best international documentary at Puerto Rico’s Enfoque festival. It was selected as the opening night film in the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. It also is an official selection for the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival and the Greenwich Film Festival.
Baribeau said he currently doesn’t have another film in the works, although both “Unbranded” and “Charged” found him, rather than the reverse. He is currently working on distribution and a general release, which he hopes to come in the fall, and he’s optimistic that he can continue to make top-notch films while based in Bozeman.
“We have learned a ton in the last five years, from raising the initial funds, crafting complex emotional stories, to finding our own distribution,” Baribeau said. “I think a Bozeman-based filmmaker can absolutely keep making films of this depth and quality.”
For more information about the film and where it is being shown, go to chargedfilm.com.
Dennis Aig (406) 994-6216, firstname.lastname@example.org