Foreign Puzzle is an intimate documentary that captures the journey of a dancer as she communicates the impermanence of life through dance while juggling the roles of a recently divorced parent (of a 6 year old), a choreographer and a primary school teacher amidst intensive treatments for breast cancer.
Cancer as a disease affects the entire family unit. Dali, Sharon’s son was five when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Like any mother, Sharon was very worried for her son. Dali was at the perfect age to process complex concepts of life and death in very simplistic terms. How does his understanding of life and death influence Sharon’s fears?
Life is never simple. It was never designed that way. Sharon and Pepe got divorced two months before her diagnosis. Sharon needs support, Pepe needs space and Dali needs his parents. How does breast cancer affect all of their needs?
For 18 months, the film followed the struggles of Sharon Marroquin, an accomplished choreographer and modern dancer in Austin, Texas.
Suspended between life and death, she begins to channel her uncertainty about mortality into an artistic project. The artistic project, The Materiality of Impermanence, and the subsequent creative process allows her to escape to another realm that is not confined by physical limitations, disease, child-rearing, teaching and running a home. How this escape heals and shapes Sharon’s perceptions of life, death and living forms the narrative arc of the film.
Mijo, a 10 minute short version of the film was screened extensively at numerous film festivals and community screenings in several countries. It won several awards and was featured on the PBS Online Film Festival in 2012.
As someone who experienced the cancer scare when I was diagnosed with a lump in my breast (which thankfully turned out to be benign), I felt compelled to document this story.
A diseased human body is a chaotic system, and as a filmmaker who also spent considerable amount of time in the field of medicine, I am interested in telling stories of the disruptive consequences of illness from unique perspectives.
Breast cancer changes everything and one has to learn to live life all over again. It was cathartic to film Sharon and capture the range of emotions she experienced on a daily basis over 18 months as she processed the illness, its onslaught and come to terms with the uncertainty and impermanence associated with everything in life.
Just because someone’s hair is growing back does not mean everything is ok and that they are back to normal. The film functions as an educational tool to raise awareness about the decimation one continues to experience – physically, emotionally, mentally and socially – even after the first year of arduous chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
At its heart, the film is about love and living in the moment. The sheer resilience of the protagonist to put aside her pain and push through the insurmountable hurdles imposed on her by life and create a beautiful, raw and honest dance that embodies the brutality of the disease and the beauty of the human spirit will move and inspire every viewer.