Why We Fight – A journey to the soul

In her film, Maya Annik Bedward zooms on a holistic family portrait, showing the good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between. | Photo courtesy of Third Culture Media

Even though Capoeira is an ancient art form, it is the glue for a 21st-century Brazilian family. Maya Annik Bedward’s documentary Why We Fight portrays the power of culture, family, and resilience by following the evolution of Capoeira’s use in the family from innocent fun to a way to cope with the daily challenges of their son’s life-threatening genetic condition.

The Brazilian martial art combines dance, acrobatics, and music, and emphasizes flowing movement rather than fixed stances. Known for its acrobatic and complex maneuvers, it was one way for Brazil’s escaped African slaves to survive

In her film, Bedward, a Jamaican French Toronto-based director, shows how a Brazilian couple uses Capoeira to help them cope with: Ichthyosis follicularis, alopecia, and photophobia syndrome (IFAP). The main symptoms are dry, scaly skin (ichthyosis), absence of hair (atrichia) and excessive sensitivity to light (photophobia). Additional features include short stature, intellectual disability, seizures, and a tendency for respiratory infections. Most people with this disease are unable to live longer than a year.

The influence

Bedward’s first brush at portraying the burden that a fatal disease imposes on a family was her short film: THE HAIRCUT. This film tells the story of her father who was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and unfortunately had little time left. The film premiered at the Hot Docs International Film Festival where it garnered significant attention and exposure.

Bedward recalls how she “found it difficult to live with this new reality, the stress it induced and the toll it took on my relationships with other members in {the}” family”.

Looking for a way to channel this fear in an artistic way, she approached Capoeira master and teacher Gerdson Dias Alves (Sapo) whom she had known for roughly 10 years. Sapo and his wife Lorena’s son Nauê struggled with IFAP. This burden that IFAP put on Sapo and Lorena’s shoulders made them turn to Capoeira, that their ancestors also practiced, as they searched for wisdom and strength. Bedward took two years filming the family’s day-to-day struggles with IFAP and their faith in Capoeira.

After two years, Bedward was able to transform that stress and the “pit in {her} stomach” into something greater. She was able to show hope, and strength to others who have similar stories to hers or to Sapo’s family. Her father and Nauê are both extremely proud of and thrilled with this film.

The struggles

Filmmaker Maya Annik Bedward. | Photo courtesy of Third Culture Media

Bedward was able to film the evolution of the family as they continue to cope with this disease. She does not hide the anger or hostility that erupts in the family as a result of disease’s burden. Rather, Bedward aims to depict a holistic portrayal of the family- showing the good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between. The common thread between each scene is that no matter the tensions or stress, Capoeira has a way of uniting and anchoring the family.

A film audience can immediately relate to all of the characters in some way or form. Sapo’s dedication and commitment is that of a strong father figure. Lorena’s sleepless nights and never-ending devotion to Nauê’s needs and treatments is a testament to many great mothers.

Anyone with a rich cultural heritage can also relate to Sapo immersing his family in Capoeira for the comfort to be found and the will to keep fighting. This is what Bedward portrayed in Why We Fight.

Why We Fight can currently be seen and streamed free across Canada through CBC Gem https://gem.cbc.ca/media/short-docs/why-we-fight/38e815a-013b699c7bf

Coming June 18 the film will be available globally through CBC’s youtube channel: www.youtube.com/user/cbctv