By C.J. Hirschfield
If you’re producing a mainstage musical with a large cast, you can pretty much expect that there will be moments of anxiety, frustration, self-doubt—and even romance. In the excellent and thought-provoking new documentary IMPERFECT, all of this happens–and more. The more is because the particular production of Chicago-The Musical that the film documents features a diverse– and disabled– cast, whose physical and neurological challenges add a complex dimension to the work they so clearly love.
The film, premiering virtually at the 2022 Slamdance Film Festival (January 27-February 6) begins and ends with the personal observations of the play’s director Regan Linton, who also happens to be the co-director of the film itself. During the shoot, she is affiliated with Phamaly, Colorado’s award-winning creative home for theatre artists with disabilities, which is the presenting company.
The film is divided into the phases of the play’s production: auditions, call backs, tech rehearsal, and finally, opening night. Along the way, it effectively and sensitively reveals the actors’ backstories, each of which is interesting and illuminating. Lucy had a promising Hollywood career, until Parkinson’s changed her trajectory. Laurice is a veteran, whose pain and seizures don’t deter her from being a caregiver to another. Megan, who lived on a farm, doesn’t let the lack of an arm slow her down. Leonard has MS, and looks to meditation and performing at old folks’ homes to keep his spirits up. And there are others, all united in their talent and determination. “We see ourselves as artists first,” says Linton, who is confined to a wheelchair after a car accident.
In addition to getting to know the cast and crew—who display much humor along the journey– we watch a community being created, where support and love are demonstrated daily. The documentary builds beautifully, and by the time we reach opening night, we’re nervously excited for them, and a rooting for the play to be successful.
Co-director/cinematographer/editor Brian Malone treats us to scenes from the performance itself, beautifully intercut with footage of the actors over the course of the long process they took to get there. His work is top flight, capturing intimate moments of both joy and pain. And the music from Chicago helps pump it all up to a crescendo.
Spoiler alert: the production was a hit.
“The stigmas, the judgements they impose on you—that’s the most difficult thing,” says Linton. “We are about life!”
This film is imperfectly, perfectly wonderful.
Directed by Regan Linton and Brian Malone.
79 minutes, English
The official IMPERFECT website.
IMPERFECT on SlamDance website.
IMPERFECT Press Notes
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Regan Linton and Brian Malone Interview for Imperfect | Slamdance 2022