The inspiring story of , the 2014 winner of Santa Barbara’s TeenStar competition, has entered a new chapter. A short film based on her story is headed to the Cannes Film Festival next week, along with the filmmakers. Their goal: to share her story with the world and to seek funding for a full-length documentary.
“This story is too important, too inspiring to not share it with the world,” said the film’s executive producer and head of Teen Star Joe Lambert. “Mary Grace is a very special individual and a very determined little girl.”
Mary Grace Langhorne suffered a rare autoimmune disease in 2013 when her family returned from a vacation. It virtually paralyzed this once-healthy girl and early prognosis suggested she’d never walk again. But singing got her through her painful treatments and the Teen Star competition gave her something to work toward. She auditioned and won the contest in 2014 while in a wheelchair.
Michael Johansen had documented Mary Grace’s story as part of a short documentary on the Teen Star contest in 2014. In that video, Mr. Lambert said that his “hope and prayer” was for Mary Grace to walk on stage when she sang her outgoing song at the following year’s competition.
Those who attended this February’s Teen Star saw that Mr. Lambert’s hopes came true: Mary Grace walked on stage in high heels and sang an original, smoky jazz number. The high heels, by the way, were not just a fashion choice: the shoes helped her still-recovering legs move better.
Back in September 2014, when Mary Grace took her first steps, Mr. Lambert’s Teen Star crew was amazed.
“That’s when we decided,” Mr. Lambert said. “This is nothing short of miraculous, and it all revolves around her music and Teen Star. Music was a big part of her healing. Dave and Pam and Claudia came together and decided to do a documentary on her journey.”
Dave Jenkins of Dajen productions and director of Teen Star agreed to edit; Pam Brandon, Teen Star stage manager, decided to direct; and Claudia Lapin joined to write and help fund the video. The budget for the project is $10,000, but that doesn’t account for the hours of labor put into the film.
This is Pam Brandon’s first documentary as director and her second film as a producer. She said that the hardest part was deciding how to shape the documentary and what story to tell.
“There’s a lot more to this story,” she said.
“What Pam really captured was the agony of what Mary Grace went through and the victoriousness of her walking,” said Mr. Lambert.
All four filmmakers are traveling to Cannes, where the film is being shown as part of the American Pavilion’s Emerging Filmmaker Showcase.
According to the Pavilion’s website, the showcase provides “an opportunity for emerging filmmakers to have their works seen by Cannes Festival and Film Market attendees.” All 22 films in the Pavilion will be screened May 18 and prizes will be awarded. The marketplace is another opportunity for the film to be seen by buyers and future producers.
“A feature film would be the ideal outcome,” said Mr. Lambert. “We’re pleasantly surprised and absolutely thrilled. The four of us have become not just a team but good friends.”
The 68th Annual Cannes Film Festival runs May 13-24. The trailer for the film can be seen at newspress.com.