When Pigs Fly

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BreitRed Prods.

PALM SPRINGS -- Delving into the story of the local "pig lady," Central Florida filmmakers Eric Breitenbach and Phyllis Redman have chronicled much more than the bond between a fiercely independent quadriplegic and hundreds of porcine critters. "When Pigs Fly" is an unflinching portrait of how a vibrant woman chooses to live after a devastating injury and the contradiction-filled ways those closest to her cope. The film also is a damning testament to the gaping holes in the workers' compensation system. If anything, "Pigs" could benefit from a slightly longer running time to more clearly spell out the details of Lory Yazurlo's situation. But as it stands, the hourlong docu, which received its world premiere at the Palm Springs festival, is compelling viewing.

Yazurlo, who turned 40 during the making of the film, had built a successful career as a trucker when a 1991 on-the-job accident left her unable to walk. A lifelong animal lover, she tried to ride horses again after she was paralyzed. But pigs proved easier to bond with from a wheelchair, and she gradually turned 20 acres of land in Bunnell, Fla. -- part of her initial payment from CSX Corp., her employer at the time of the accident -- into the Pig Tales Sanctuary, devoting all her resources to the animals' care. Following Yazurlo's muddy wheelchair or taking animal-level laps through the muck, Breitenbach's roving camera captures the joy and the filth of the place. Feeding the fast-growing herd isn't cheap, and Lory sinks deeper into debt and depression as CSX and its insurance company stall on a final settlement in her workers' comp case.

There's a powerful intimacy to the filmmaking, with Redman's interviews drawing out the Yazurlo family's unconditional love and unresolvable conflicts. Yazurlo's indefatigable mother, Charlene, who is her primary care attendant, also is in some ways the center of this story: Resilient but, like the film itself, offering no feel-good bromides about life as a quadriplegic.
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