A year ago musician Filipe Falé had a stroke - this summer he's trading selfies at festivals in a bid to make a documentary about his recovery
In June I met a man dressed as a bunny at Primavera Sound. Par for the course at a music festival teeming with the latest in avant-garde threads, you might think. Amused, I casually asked for a selfie and my request was granted. There was, however, one caveat: that I would listen to said bunny’s back story. Already a bit late for Mac DeMarco, I looked at my watch, wavered a bit and asked how long it would take. “Five minutes,” was the reasonable response. It became obvious pretty quickly, though, that five minutes wasn’t going to be anywhere near enough and so, having worked out that we both lived in London, we set up time to cover the rest of Filipe Falé’s incredible tale.
A Portuguese musician who has lived in Stoke Newington for the last 10 years, Filipe suffered a massive stroke last July at the age of just 36. ‘Bunny,’ it turns out, is the nickname his wife uses for the man beneath the fur and floppy ears, and the suit has proved an ingenious way of stimulating conversations with the public on the subject of strokes in general, and aphasia in particular. Having grappled with the production and understanding of speech brought about by the aphasia for almost a year, Filipe is hoping to raise awareness of the condition by doing what he does every other summer: attending festivals across Europe.
This time, however, he is aiming to go beyond the bands and the beer to talk to anyone willing to spare five minutes. The plan is to turn tapes of these conversations into a full-length documentary that will help educate people around both strokes and aphasia, and to bring to life Filipe’s firm belief that stroke survivors and people living with the effects of brain injury should not be defined by their conditions.
Having not met Filipe before the stroke, it is hard for me to fully appreciate how the aphasia affects him. Speaking in his second language of English, he is extremely articulate and blessed with a deep lexicon. Every now and again, however, he finds himself searching for words or losing his train of thought. We meet at a quiet cafe because surrounding conversations can stretch his focus. When these moments come, the frustration is evident, but it is something which he is learning to deal with, and the improvements are coming daily, slowly but surely.