The Reelabilities Film festival presents award winning films, music, dance, theater, discussions and other engaging programs, bringing together the community to explore, discuss and celebrate the diversity of our shared human experience. These films are by and about people with disabilities. ReelAbilities strives for inclusion of all people. Here is the link to more information about the festival that was hosted in Cincinnati.
Last year, LADD, Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled, collaborated with them enabling them to focus more resources and provide more support to festivals around the country. Their goal is independence through education. They provide a variety of programs and services for people with disabilities, from young adults just leaving high school to older adults who qualify for senior services. Their community-based services are unique in the way they teach independent living skills that will help people become self-sufficient and less dependent on others.
Fortunately, Cincinnati was a host city of the Reelabilities Film Festival. On Monday, Reelabilities, LADD, the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Reds made it possible for a 400 of us to see Where Hope Grows. I've wanted to see this movie since they showed it at the Down Syndrome Convention last summer.
I've included the trailer of the movie.
This description was posted on the movie's webpage. Calvin Campbell is a former professional baseball player sent to an early retirement due to his panic attacks at the plate. Even though he had all the talent for the big leagues, he struggles with the curveballs life has thrown him. Today, he mindlessly sleepwalks through his days and the challenge of raising his teenager daughter. His life is in a slow downward spiral when it is suddenly awakened and invigorated by the most unlikely person – Produce, a young-man with Down syndrome who works at the local grocery store.
Calvin slowly loses the chip on his shoulder as he begins to experience the world through Produce’s eyes. Faith, work, purpose and most importantly family, blossom into Calvin’s life as their friendship develops. The unlikely pair becomes intertwined giving Calvin’s life new meaning and purpose, but unfortunately leads to tragedy due to single decision echoed from Calvin’s past.
Where Hope Grows is a story of finding redemption through faith, hope and love.
I'm going to be 100% honest...there were parts of the movie that made me cringe. Comments, actions...they stung to my core. The r-word, the stigma of people with disabilities, how some people truly do feel and treat people with disabilities. I shuddered but stuck it out. They were there for a reason. It was necessary for the development of the relationships in the movie. I know some people were offended by the stereotypes that they portrayed with Produce. His optimism (always happy) and him hugging everyone at the grocery store are a couple of them. I'm going to be honest, those didn't bother me because right now, Hailey is generally happy and does love to show affection. I loved that the film portrayed an independent man with Down syndrome with a job. It also showed him having true friendships with people. You could feel the love these people had for him. The movie showed that love and friendship can change people. I also believe on a larger scale, the movie proves once again that people with Down syndrome are employable...even in acting. This movie pushed to end the r-word and it also showed how to treat people with disabilities...how we should treat everyone. Respect for all regardless of abilities. I would love to touch on more but I don't want to give away the movie :-)
After the movie, one of the producers, Milan Chakraborty, Ted Kremer (Cincinnati's famous bat boy and now employee of the Cincinnati Reds) and David DeSanctis (Produce) answered the crowds questions. I loved watching and listening to David and Ted answer questions and respond to the crowd. They are both very animated men and love to talk! Milan was very frank and honest. He told us he wasn't happy with the original ending so the writer told him, "Fine, you write it!" He consequently rewrote the beginning. I can't give that information, but it was PERFECT! Milan also told us the movie was originally written about a man with autism. He said that it has been done why not try someone with Down syndrome. Immediately, they started asking, "well what actor can we get to play that role". Thankfully, Milan encouraged them to seek an individual that actually has Down syndrome. Yes, I would have boycotted the movie if they had someone pretend to have Down syndrome.
I know that most of the people that attended on Monday had a connection with Down syndrome, but I do believe this movie would be good for everyone with or without that connection.
The good news is this movie is being released to theaters on May 15. The bad news is this is an independent film and is not released everywhere. Cincinnati is not on the short list. The only way it can be brought into another market is if they can guarantee 500 sold tickets. At that time, the production company can contact the theater. Milan was told by Hollywood that no one wants to watch this film. It's been in the making for 6 years. I'm hoping society can prove Hollywood wrong! It takes baby steps for us to make the world a better place for Hailey and others with disabilities. This is several of those steps rolled into one.
If Where Hope Grows is released in your area, please go see it. Please support Hollywood making meaningful movies about people of all abilities.