One woman—20 acres -- more than 700 pigs.
The Pig Tales sanctuary houses and feeds all sorts of farm animals, allowing them to live out their natural lives. They don't just take up Lory Yazurlo's days and nights, her every waking moment. They have the run of her house.
And she has navigated those 20 muddy acres in a wheelchair. Yazurlo, 43, has been a quadriplegic (there are degrees of quadriplegia, depending on which vertebrae are damaged) since a 1991 on-the-job accident as a truck driver for CSX.
Her daily effort to tend to the animals, to take care of herself, and fight ongoing battles over a worker's-compensation claim, is the stuff of great drama, say Sanford filmmakers Eric Breitenbach and Phyllis Redman -- a tale of courage, compassion, resilience, a will-to-survive and an obsession that borders on madness. When they read about Yazurlo in a 2002 Orlando Sentinel story, they saw a compelling documentary film in her struggle.
"Lory's utter determination to make this pig sanctuary work is what impressed me," says Breitenbach. "She's in the moment. She can't even think about tomorrow. It's about today, getting out of bed, getting the food, feeding the pigs."
"We went out there to do an art film, which we did," says Redman. "But what we found ourselves doing was getting involved in this human story, and that's the story we told."
Crazy or depressed?
These husband-and-wife moviemakers were newlyweds when they started filming Yazurlo in late 2002. Years of filming, following her, of not knowing whether she would survive the stresses of her life, her finances and her family have become When Pigs Fly, their acclaimed documentary about Yazurlo, her family and family history.
The movie, which premiered at the Palm Springs Film Festival in January, will be shown at the Florida Film Festival this afternoon at 3:45 at the Enzian Theater in Maitland. It is, as The Hollywood Reporter noted in Palm Springs, "an unflinching portrait of how a vibrant woman chooses to live after a devastating injury, and the contradiction-filled ways those closest to her cope."
When Pigs Fly spans the seasons of the year, and years of Lory Yazurlo's life, from her childhood through her 1991 accident; from her discovery of pigs that need rescuing (when the pot-bellied-pig fad ended) to the rising size of the herd that she -- with help from friends and family -- cares for.
It is a tale with heroes and villains, and sometimes Yazurlo herself can come off as both. "Crazy" is a word that those who don't know her might use for someone who lives this close to pigs, with them in, and all over, her property and her house.
"It's a movie, we hope, that reveals how society marginalizes some people," Redman says. Yazurlo, Redman says, can seem like her own worst enemy, refusing to take care of herself, adding to her pig herd and her burden.
"She's physically disabled, and people think she's crazy. What is your definition of crazy? That's about mental health and depression, and that's what we hope her story educates people about. People don't recognize 'depression.' They just say, 'Oh, she's crazy.' She's not. She has her ups and downs. You try taking on what she has to deal with every day. You'd be depressed, too."
A family story
When Pigs Fly -- the title is ironic, considering the long odds Yazurlo must beat to maintain herself, her sanctuary and her sanity -- has a heroine, too. It is Charlene, Lory's mom, a retiree, a woman of infinite patience who handles much of the physical care her daughter needs, who battles with insurers and takes on many of Lory's burdens as she tries to keep Lory going.
"Lory's story can seem kind of hopeless and funny and sad," Breitenbach says. "Then, we met Charlene. And her father. The other sister. It became a family story pretty quickly."
"We started to notice Charlene was out there a lot," Redman says. "All of these tasks she has to take care of to keep her daughter going. She works harder than any working person I've ever known, and she's retired."
Charlene Yazurlo, 64, laughs at that. The movie opens with a shot of her, singing with the Sweet Adelines, a little something she does for herself. But even in that, she's singing at retirement homes and the like -- giving.