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The Uneasy Benevolence of Hangar’s Limb with Xiaoyuan Xiao

Sometimes the evolution of technology and the human spirit are symbiotic; often occurring in the face of great obstacles. The US Civil War would dramatically change the design of prosthetics. This is simultaneously a benevolent and disheartening aspect because the need for a better solution was so prevalent after the horrific battles and losses of this war. The filmmakers of Hangar’s Limb wanted to display this significant period in a personal manner. Xiaoyuan Xiao (aka “Ivy”) was the producer driving this for the production. In addition to a great script, the resistance to making this film due to the main character’s background was a reason Xiao wanted to take on the task of creating it. In a society and industry that can sometimes seem blind to its own political correctness in rejecting important stories, Ivy strove for the integrity of the story itself over appeasing vacillating temperaments.

The first battlefield amputee of the Civil War would end up changing prosthetics forever. Eighteen-year-old James Hanger (played in the film by Markus Jorgenses) lost his leg in Philippi, Virginia just before the first land battle of the Civil War. He returned home, a depressed and broken man who felt resoundingly disconnected from a way of life he once knew. Stripped of his mobility and fiancé, Hanger considers himself a man without purpose. Inspired by the support of his parents (played by Kristin Carey of CBS’s thrice Primetime Emmy Nominated Criminal Minds & twice Primetime Emmy nominated series Bones, and Tom Kiesche), he channels his energy into designing a new leg to rebuild himself physically and emotionally. Fashioned from barrel staves, the Hangar Limb, is the basis of modern prosthetic design. James Hangar’s contributions continue to this day through Hanger Clinic, one of the leading prosthetic services in America. Hangar’s Limb is a film which tells how this man’s personal tragedy transformed to became a gift for society.

Ivy Xiao is known as a producer who is able to manifest the impossible with a challenging budget. She more than proved this reputation on Hangar’s Limb by creating Virginia of the 1860’s in Los Angeles. With a director who was adamant about open fields with plantation houses, this environment was rare to say the least for Southern California. The visuals on camera speak for themselves but Xiao concedes that sometimes in filmmaking you work with what you have. She tells, “The big mountain fires in California had burned and blackened the battlefield location we acquired. The original idea was for rolling green hills but there was no way around this. Benevolently, the devastating setting played extremely well on camera and contributed to the devastation of the scene. I can’t take credit for the look but I’m certainly glad we didn’t cut those scenes as they are riveting in the story.”

One unexpected contribution of Ivy’s work on Hangar’s Limb is her perspective as a non-American. While she notes her understanding of why certain professionals refused to work on a film about a confederate soldier who is portrayed as making a positive contribution to society, she also is adamant that this can be dangerous. She states, “I decided to work on this film, hoping that people can see it as a story about a young man who invented the first two-jointed prosthetic that later helped hundreds and thousands of people. We can’t change history. The fact is, he WAS a confederate soldier. We can’t lie about it and make him a Union soldier to appease the judges and audience. He invented something life changing for human society.”

Author: Patrick Wilson
The Uneasy Benevolence of Hangar’s Limb with Xiaoyuan Xiao Reviewed by JaamZIN on 8:09:00 PM Rating: 5
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