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Virgen's View: 'Augie' documentary emotional, funny and powerful

Virgen's View: 'Augie' documentary emotional, funny and powerful
From left, Lynne Nieto, Augie Nieto and director James Keach attended Thursday's screening of 'Augie," the documentary at Island Cinema during the closing day of the Newport Beach Film Festival. (Scott Smeltzer | Daily Pilot)

Moviegoers at the Newport Beach Film Festival are given a ballot that has four ratings: Bad, Fair, Good and Excellent. It would be a great surprise if everyone who saw, "Augie," didn't enter: Excellent.

The documentary about the Corona del Mar resident who battles ALS was gripping, honest, humorous and emotionally powerful. Director James Keach, who was in attendance for Thursday afternoon's screening, wanted the audience to leave the film feeling empowered, but you also can't help but feel saddened for Augie Nieto and his family.

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Overall, viewers were left with the knowledge that Augie has become iconic in the ALS community, a true champion for research and awareness of the wicked progressive disease that withers the nerves that control the muscles.

Augie has been living with ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis for the past 11 years. He used his business skills from co-founder of Life Fitness and applied it to his dealings with ALS, as he started Augie's Quest to raise money in his fight to find technology to help those battling the disease.

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The film also portrays a love story of high school sweethearts between Augie and his wife, Lynne.

Augie's son Austin, and daughter, Lindsay, are also in the documentary. Augie walked Lindsay down the aisle for her wedding three years ago, which made national headlines.

The documentary is destined to win awards with Keach, who produced "Walk the Line," the movie about Johnny Cash, and two years ago directed "I'll Be Me," the documentary about Glen Campbell and his battle with Alzheimer's disease.

"Augie" reveals a difficult battle with ALS that included a suicide attempt that eventually transformed into a desire to live. Augie also carried a sense of humor that the film depicts as crude and with sexual jokes. It's a nice break of humor from an emotional tone.

Augie and Lynne Nieto were in attendance at the Thursday screening, as was Keach, who took part in a question and answer session.

Lynne said it was a special treat to have the documentary screening among friends at Island Cinema on Thursday. Earlier in the week she said he was in Nashville for a film festival screening of "Augie."

Twitter: @SteveVirgen

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