Foreign Puzzle is an intimate documentary that captures the journey of an inspiring Mexican American dancer as she communicates the impermanence of life through dance while juggling the roles of a recently divorced parent of a 6-year-old, a choreographer and a primary school teacher amidst intensive treatments for breast cancer.

Foreign Puzzle is one of the most powerful and potentially most influential films that I’ve ever seen that could be used as an educational film in schools for social work and other helping professions across the country and internationally.

Elizabeth C. Pomeroy, Ph.D., LCSW, ACSW Professor, School of Social Work, The University of Texas at Austin
Synopsis: 

For 18 months, the film follows the struggles of Sharon Marroquin, an accomplished choreographer and modern dancer in Austin, Texas. Cancer affects the entire family unit. When she gets diagnosed with breast cancer, Dali her son is five.  Sharon and Pepe got divorced two months before her diagnosis. She needs support, Pepe needs space and Dali needs his parents. Like any mother, Sharon is very worried for her son. How does breast cancer affect all of their needs? Dali is at a perfect age to process complex concepts of life and death in very simplistic terms. How does his understanding of life and death influence Sharon’s fears?

Suspended between life and death, she begins to channel her uncertainty about mortality into an artistic project. The artistic project, The Materiality of Impermanence, and the subsequent creative process allows her to escape to another realm that is not confined by physical limitations, disease, child-rearing, teaching and running a home. How this escape heals and shapes Sharon’s perceptions of life, death and living forms the narrative arc of the film. At its heart, the film is about love and living in the moment. The sheer resilience of the protagonist to put aside her pain and push through the insurmountable hurdles imposed on her by life and create a beautiful, raw and honest dance that embodies the brutality of the disease and the beauty of the human spirit will move and inspire every viewer.

Reviews

Director's Commentary: 

As a physical therapist turned filmmaker, I like telling stories about health issues from unique perspectives. Breast cancer changes everything and one has to learn to live life all over again. Foreign Puzzle unravels the cancer experience for health care providers and the family. It captures the range of emotions that Sharon Marroquin experiences over 18 months as she processes the illness, its onslaught and comes to terms with the uncertainty and impermanence associated with it.

The film functions as an educational tool for family and friends and raises awareness about the decimation one continues to experience – physically, emotionally, mentally and socially – even after the first year of arduous chemotherapy and radiation treatments. It helps oncologists, nurses, psychologists, and social workers watch Sharon up close and see a perspective about patient life that is rarely shown to them.