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Indie Memphis: Being the Diablo

October 21, 2010

Is it selfish or brilliant to dare to beat to your own drummer?

That is the question “Being the Diablo” teases you with as we are introduced to Mickey Mahaffey.

The synopsis first drew me in: “Mickey Mahaffey’s daughter Stephanie has spent most of her life defending and justifying her father’s choices. His quest for a deeper, yet more simple, spiritual life was constantly at odds with what Stephanie’s family and friends expected from a father. But his search for himself could not be derailed by what people thought of him. His path led him from being a popular young preacher to living homeless, from being committed to a mental institution to finally dancing with Tarahumara Indians at the bottom of a remote canyon in Mexico’s Sierra Madre. Being the Diablo retraces that path and illuminates the conflicts inherent.”

But what is telling about the 60-minute documentary is that Mahaffey’s romanticism of the free spiritual life draws you in but his daughter tempers the audience’s ability to heroize him when you see the reality of his situation.

In telling the story of the Mahaffey’s the structure of the documentary lets you slowly peel back the layers of Mahaffey – at first tough and foreign feeling, then softer and more to the heart of what we all seek – peace.

His connection to the Mexican culture, while interesting and the key to the title of the film, almost loses the heart of the story – his defiance to tradition and struggling children who want more of him. I sometimes grew tired of watching his transformation, although I understood the reason why those moments were significant. But we are again taken back to his life with his children and the situations that led him to be who he is which makes the story about more than broken homes, mental illness, spirituality and forgiveness for one family  – it makes the story universal.

But as an unmedicated bipolar, the fact that he leads two lives, both at home and in Mexico and feels torn between both becomes essential to understanding his character. The glimpse into Mexican culture is at times very beautiful and allows us to see what might be Mahaffey’s daily internal struggle.

The film is directed and edited by Rod Murphy and co-produced with Roger Derrough.

I recommend catching the documentary feature  at Indie Memphis on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. on Studio on the Square. For tickets, visit Indie Memphis.

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