Born in California and raised in Montana, chef Eduardo Garcia is the inspiring protagonist of the documentary Charged. Yet his kind smile, curly locks, and joy for cooking and exploration are not depicted in the first frame of the film. Instead, viewers are shown a heavily bandaged Garcia in a sterile hospital room. He is looking straight at the camera while sharing his decision to, “Take off this left arm of mine that I’ve had for 30 years. And, you know, I don’t know if it’s always done great things, but it’s always done great things by me.”
To backtrack, Garcia is an avid explorer. “Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always had a wild streak in me,” he recalls. He spends his days hiking and wandering the mountains of Montana. On October 9, 2011, he came across a barrel with a decomposed bear carcass inside. Curious, he went to touch the fur with his knife. Then everything went black. Garcia had touched a neglected electrical junction box deep in the backcountry, sending 2,400 volts of electricity through his body.
Garcia came to, miraculously hiked to help, and was Life-Flighted to the University of Utah Burn Trauma Center in Park City. He had electrocution exit wounds in the chest, ribs, head, thigh, and left arm. And upon further examination, doctors also diagnosed Garcia with testicular cancer. So the long journey to change, recovery, and healing—alongside his dear friend and loving caretaker Jennifer Jane—began.
Initially, Garcia had no interest in sharing his story. He and Jane had filmed the experience for his personal archives. “It was a three-year process for me to come around to the idea,” Garcia says. “I had my reservations.” One day, he stopped by the Burn Center where he was treated. While surrounded by staff who had cared for him during his 50-day stay, hugs and tears were shared. Then the surgeon, Dr. Stephen E. Morris, who was on-call when Garcia was rolled in after the accident, came out to get a good look at him. “Before Dr. Morris left, he said, ‘It feels so good to see you again. You need to come around more often,’” Garcia recalls. “That was my first a-ha moment when I realized that, ego aside, I’m a success story in how I recovered. I needed to share my story of what recovery can look like.”
“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always had a wild streak in me.”
So he connected with documentarian and close friend Phillip “Phil” Baribeau. They had worked together in the past when submitting a show to the Food Network. They had actually had a meeting with the network eight days before the aforementioned hike in the mountains. Baribeau brought on Producer Dennis Aig, his former film teacher, who also served as a producer on Baribeau’s prior film, Unbranded. Then, Bay Area local Jan Katzoff hopped on board. “My wife saw the film’s Kickstarter funding page and told me to have a look,” Katzoff recalls. “We had previously made a small investment in Unbranded. So I flew up to Bozemen and met with both Eduardo and Phil. I loved their energy and that got me excited about the film.”
The team’s end product is a beautiful and rich story of love, loyalty, and friendship. “When I saw it for the first time, in 2016—five years after my injury—I don’t think I breathed once,” Garcia shares. “It was incredibly emotional and very sobering.” Since 2017, Charged has made the festival rounds, winning the Audience Award at the San Francisco Documentary Festival. “Showing it to the San Francisco audience was one of the high points for me,” Katzoff says. “To preview it in my hometown—with a full theater—was so rewarding.” Charged is now available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon and has recently been picked up by Hulu.
Following the glow of this success, Garcia continues to focus on what brings him joy. His Instagram profile is a collage of cooking, hiking, exploration, and his growing organic seasoning company, Montana Mex. This summer, he will marry the love of his life, Becca Skinner. “When you know, you know,” Garcia adds. “And, with Becca, I knew. I look at her and I know she is the best thing to happen to me.”