Kicking off with a barbershop-style Christmas carol performed by a group of matrons in central Florida, When Pigs Fly gets right down to business. Life in a swine sanctuary, as created by an animal-loving woman in a wheelchair, is the story told by producers/directors Eric Breitenbach and Phyllis Redman.
The woman's name is Lory Yazurlo. Her life from childhood up through a disabling truck accident is briefly sketched in the exposition, as are the first few years of her experiences as a quadraplegic. The central focus of the documentary, though, is her subsequent life as with pigs.
Starting with a single creature bequeathed by her sister, Yazurlo grows her herd to nearly many hundreds strong, caring for and doting on her hungry wet pigs. The film is replete with amusing, adorable, and oftentimes disgusting images of her muddy and personality-filled swine.
The real story, though, is her increasing social and mental isolation resulting from legal battles over her insurance settlement, a state exemplified by the transformation of her home into a veritable pigsty. Yazurlo is cared for by her parents, who assist with her medical needs while working around the animals. Her mother is the real heart of the movie, an overwhelmed caretaker who goes full circle but remains in place as one of the carol-singing women featured at the film's opening.
Stylistically, When Pigs Fly builds and maintains a satisfying momentum for a biographical documentary, particularly a portrait of depression.
There is a sizeable contingent of filmgoers excited to see Redman and Breitenbach speak after the screening. They discuss their original meeting with the family, Yazurlo's ongoing hoarding of pigs, and their work to resolve the situation (including a request to ABC to feature the home on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. More information about the documentary is available at whenpigsflythemovie.
When Pigs Fly was coupled with The Cost of Living in a dual screening at Monona Terrace, the second pair in a sextet of films -- mostly documentaries -- screened there Friday night.