Sunday, October 16, 2011

Canadian film, "How Does It Feel," profiles man with CP who at 58 becomes singer

From The Barrie Examiner in Canada:

Sometimes dreams really do come true.

For Kazumi Tsuruoka (pictured), it began with a passion for music and a life-long desire to sing, even though he had always been told he couldn't.

Singing is a daunting enough task on its own, but Tsuruoka had an added complication — cerebral palsy — which impaired his motor control and speech.

Still, he didn't give up. He sang on his own and at 58 years old, began taking singing lessons. The result had a far reaching impact on both the singer and those who listened to him.

"As soon as I saw it (Tsuruoka's one-man show) it just blew me away," said Lawrence Jackman, who made a documentary film on the singer's journey from learning to sing to creating his own show. "It was an incredible performance."

The film, How Does It Feel, will be shown at the Barrie Film Festival's Director's Brunch next weekend. Jackman and Tsuruoka will both be in Barrie for the screening, the brunch and a question-and-answer session.

The film, which is about 40 minutes in length, takes the form of interviews interspersed with a few songs from Kazumi's one man show and scenes of his work with voice teacher Fides Krucker.

"It kind of recreates the process they went through from when they first started working together to the realization he actually was a talented singer (and) that she could work with him through to putting a show together," said Jackman, adding that Tsuruoka was a natural performer.

The show was called CP Salon and it was staged for the first time in Vancouver, did a run of western Canada and the Yukon two years ago and played at several college campuses in Toronto.

Four songs from Tsuruoka's one-man show are included in the film — rhythm and blues tunes such as Smokey Robinson's Tracks of My Tears.

In the context of the show and the film, the songs take on a different meaning when he's singing them.

Jackman is a Toronto-based director and editor who has worked on many award-winning documentary films. In 2005, he was nominated for a Gemini award for editing the documentary Animals.

Most of his work is for independent films. He also has a long association with the National Film Board of Canada, which produced How Does It Feel. This film also marks Jackman's first time directing for the NFB. While most of his focus is on directing these days, he continues to enjoy the editing process.

"That's when the story comes together," he said. "Anything can happen during the shooting process and then, when you get to the editing stage, you've got all the elements so there's no going back at that point.

"That's where you find the story you actually collected. You have to kind of throw out your expectations and just see what's there to be filmed. It's a very exciting process."

Jackman fell into films when he was looking for work and his first job was in the editorial department of a television show. It was enough of an introduction to appeal to him. The rest he learned from the ground up.

His interest in documentaries has never wavered.

"One of the reason I've always focused on documentaries is that there's always going to be a interest for me — no matter what the subject, who's making it, what the budget is," he said.

"Because you're dealing with real people and real issues, there will always be something that is captivating."

One of his interests is music and How Does It Feel is his second film — the first was about a young saxophone player. With How Does It Feel, Jackman wanted to explore how music affects us both emotionally and physically.

After the film has completed the circuit of small film festivals, it will likely be shown on television before winding upon the NFB website. There is also the hope that How Does It Feel will have a strong educational run, both being shown at and used by schools.