West coast dancer John Henry made his life the subject of his final performance. Choreographer Bromberg and film maker Rosenberg collaborate with Henry in the creation of a work for the theatre based on his desire to leave an autobiographic legacy. Filmed during the last few years of Henry's life with HIV/AIDS, the documentary examines the image of self as one individual prepares to separate from body and personhood, and continues after his death.


Subsequent to Henry's death, it became clear that the "legacy" and identities of this gay man, dancer, teacher, and Vietnam Vet were not entirely true, and that the filmmakers had unwittingly collaborated in its creation. Excellent cinematography and editing contribute to the Rashomon effect as interviews with family members, fellow dancers, friends, psychologist, critic, and the collaborators themselves struggle with and dissect the mystery.

In reconstructing a life through the medium of movement and text, questions of truth, art, narrative authenticity, and documentation become issues for ethical reflection. Mark Twain's comment about "truth" seems apt: "Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't" (attributed by Web site to be from Samuel Clemens's book, Following the Equator).

It might be useful to pair this film with Rafael Campo's poem, Her Final Show which speaks to the appreciation of aplomb and dramatic exits (see this database). Another fascinating investigation would be to compare the mother-son relationship presented in Singing Myself a Lullaby with that in Alice Elliot Dark's story, In the Gloaming (see this database).


Funded by the Project on Death in America/Open Society Institute

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