The Right to Choose Your Own Path

Living Rights – Yoshi
Duco Tellegen, Director, 2004 Netherlands

In Living Rights – Yoshi, a 16-year-old boy diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome has been placed into a special school for children with a range of learning disabilities. Yoshi’s dream is to attend a regular Japanese high school, but his disability has prevented him from making that dream happen. With humour, wit and creativity, Yoshi makes a strong case for all of us to believe he should.

Living Rights examines the contemporary relevance (and often divergence) – between the humanitarian statement crafted by the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child that sought to define and uphold the fundamental living rights of children – and the reality of the lives of these children whom the charter seeks to protect. Article 29, espouses the “development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential”.

In this candid and confessional-styled, direct address to the camera, Yoshi expresses his frustrating experiences at school in which he complains of his lack of intellectual challenge and being over-praised for performing the most mundane tasks. We see his bouts of melancholia. We equally see his articulateness and creativity in expressing his ideas. The film (and Yoshi) makes an insightful and compelling argument on inclusion and otherness, and in the process, challenges – and more importantly, inculcates – society’s own preconceived ideas of what it truly means to be “normal”.

Recognition: International Doc Film Festival Amsterdam (Premiere), | Human Rights Watch (London, NY) | Special Mention Human Rights: Locarno International Film Festival, Images of the 21st century etc. 58th Locarno Film Festival | Prize of French Ambassador: Parnu filmfestival | Buster’s Doc Award: Buster Copenhagen International Film Festival for Children and Youth | Osnabruek Children Rights Award (2006) | Youth Award: Nomination Movie Squad | Nomination Child Right Award: Romania Signis 2006

Still image from Living Rights - Yoshi

Body and Soul: Diana & Kathy (OC)
Alice Elliott, Director, 2007, USA

Body and Soul: Diana and Kathy by Academy Award nominee Alice Elliott, is a rare look at a crisis in an unusual relationship between two people with disabilities. Diana, who has Down Syndrome, and Kathy, who has Cerebral Palsy, met at a sheltered workshop in Illinois three decades ago and vowed to fight to live independent lives. Fearful of being shut away in a nursing home or forced into a state run institution, they broke the rules and escaped the system. Not content to earn menial wages and have their living situation change with the whim of government appropriations, Diana learned to drive, they moved, built their own house, and survived to tell their story.

Body and Soul: Diana and Kathy chronicles their ongoing struggle to live independently outside of institutions, Diana’s desperate search to reconnect with her abusive mother, and the lawbreaking journey they take to Washington, D.C. to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. For Diana and Kathy, this is a journey that’s physically dangerous and technically illegal, so the stakes are uncommonly high. Body & Soul: Diana & Kathy moves beyond disability and activism to acceptance of a profound, creative and symbiotic friendship. It is story about making a difference.

2008 Best of Festival Award: Superfest XXV111, Berkley, California | Nomination: Short Documentary Award: International Documentary Association, 2007, Los Angeles California | Crystal Heart Award: PHeartland Film Festival, 2007, Indianapolis IN; AAIDD Media Award, 2007, Washington DC | TASH Positive Images in Media Award: 2007 Washington DC | 2008 CCDI Justin Dart Distinguished Citizens of the Year Award Diana Braun & Kathy Conour | 2008 NYSACRA Excellence Award: Alice Elliott

View the Body and Soul: Diana and Kathy trailer on Youtube.

Still Image from Body and Soul: Diana and Kathy
Alice Elliot during post screening of Q&A of Body and Soul

Her Name is Sabine
Sandrine Bonnaire, Director, 2007, France

Her Name is Sabine is a moving portrait of Sabine Bonnaire filmed by her sister, acclaimed French actress Sandrine Bonnaire. The film juxtaposes intimate home movies of Sabine as a vivacious young woman, taken by the actress over a 25 year period, with recent footage powerfully demonstrating the effects on Sabine’s personality and lust for life as she journeys through a French psychiatric institution. Bonnaire’s very poignant film now finds Sabine at 38, living in an adult care facility, after finally having been diagnosed as having autism.

Her Name is Sabine is an emotional questioning of psychiatric diagnosis, the agonizing decisions involved in long-term care and the lack of specialized institutions and support. An exposé of the ignorance about autism, the film is even more centrally about the relationship between Sandrine and Sabine – the care, the closeness, the feelings of guilt and especially the frustration as one sister feels helpless to stop the other’s decline. The film is an urgent plea to acknowledge value, support and involve all individuals in society.

Winner, International Federation of Film Critics Award, Directors’ Fortnight Award, 2007: Cannes Film Festival, France | Official Selection (select): Hot Docs (2008) | Berlin International Film Festival (2008) | Rendez-Vous with French Cinema Today (2008) | International Contemporary Cinema Festival in Mexico (2008) | Pusan International Film Festival (2007) | International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), the Netherlands 2007 “Reflecting Images: Best of Fest”” Section | Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival, Brasil 2007 “Panorama do Cinema Mundial” Section | Haifa International Film Festival, Israel 2007, Golden Anchor Competition

On stage for Insights Q&A session are from left to right: Barbara Hall (Chief Commissioner OHRC); Martine Stonehouse (author and person with Aspergers Syndrome); director Alice Elliott (Body and Soul: Diana & Kathy); Margaret Spoelstra (executive director, Autism Ontario); Catherine Frazee (session moderator).