Getting Up: The Tempt One Story
ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, afflicts the motor neurons that control voluntary muscle activity, leaving the body immobile though the brain remains active. In 2006, local filmmakers Jeanne Jordan and Steve Ascher documented the astounding efforts by the family of Stephen Heywood to find a cure for the disease in So Much So Fast. Heywood tragically died on November 26 of that year. Now, after its Slamdance festival premiere, comes Getting Up: The Tempt One Story, another tale that dramatizes an unbelievable triumph of spirit over adversity through the use of creativity and technology.
Tony “Tempt One” Quan was struck with the disease at the age of 34. At the time he was one of the leading graffiti artists and social activists in Los Angeles, excelling at a design approach that combined a Latino (or Cholo) style with New York graffiti influences.
The artists in Los Angeles are diverse, and often at odds. The film starts out deep in the underground culture and cliques that make up this marginalized world. But when Tempt One is struck down and becomes bedridden, the story expands. Mick Ebeling, a socially conscious designer, animator, and innovator hears about Tempt One’s plight. Ebeling’s respect for the the artist’s vision and talent combined with the dedication of a community of artists committed to keeping Tempt One active. Thus begins a journey into the power of some mind-blowing technological developments. With a free thinking group of designers and artists, some input from Dell Computer, and the help of Open Source software, Ebeling creates the EyeWriter, which allows a paralyzed patient to draw and communicate using only the eyes.
The documentary, directed by Caskey Eberling, moves from the artists and streets of L.A. to the dedicated work of free-thinking young scientists, programmers, and geniuses from around the world, including the people at the Graffiti Research Lab, which invents new tools and technologies friendly to graffiti, such as machines that can help put laser writing on distant walls. At the center of it all is the astounding resilience and endurance of Tempt One who, while physically immobile, can use his eyes to speak, create, draw, and eventually bring communities of disparate artists together. The Boston screening will include a panel with graffiti historian Calab Neelon.