Breathing Lessons

ACADEMY AWARD WINNER! According to Mark O’Brien, “The two mythologies about disabled people break down to one: we can’t do anything, or two: we can do everything. But the truth is, we’re just human.” O’Brien was a frequently published journalist and poet, and a contributor to National Public Radio. He contracted polio in childhood and, due to post-polio syndrome, spent much of his life in an iron lung. Yet for more than forty years, he fought against illness, bureaucracy and society’s conflicting perceptions of disability for his right to lead an independent life.

Breathing Lessons breaks down barriers to understanding by presenting an honest and intimate portrait of a complex, intelligent, beautiful and interesting person, who happens to be disabled. Incorporating the vivid imagery of O’Brien’s poetry, and his candid, wry and often profound reflections on work, sex, death and God, this provocative film asks: what makes a life worth living?

Refrigerator Mothers

It is America of the 1950s and 1960s, when a woman’s most important contribution to society is generally considered to be her ability to raise happy, well-adjusted children. But for the mother whose child is diagnosed with autism, her life’s purpose will soon become a twisted nightmare. Looking for help and support, she encounters instead a medical establishment that pins the blame for her child’s bizarre behaviors on her supposedly frigid and detached mothering. Along with a heartbreaking label for her child, she receives a devastating label of her own. She is a “refrigerator mother”.

Refrigerator Mothers paints an intimate portrait of an entire generation of mothers, already laden with the challenge of raising profoundly disordered children, who lived for years under the dehumanizing shadow of professionally promoted “mother blame.”

Once isolated and unheard, these mothers have emerged with strong, resilient voices to share the details of their personal journeys. Through their poignant stories, Refrigerator Mothers puts a human face on what can happen when authority goes unquestioned and humanity is removed from the search for scientific answers.

39 Pounds of Love

39 Pounds of Love is the inspirational and humorous story of Ami Ankilewitz, a 3-D animator in Israel whose bodily motion is limited to a single finger on his left hand. At birth, Ami was diagnosed with a rare form of muscular dystrophy, later diagnosed as Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), and was predicted to survive only to the age of 6. Now, thirty years later, he leaves the woman he loves and returns to the United States to confront the childhood doctor who predicted his early demise. Along the way, he comes to terms with a major incident from his past and pursues a lifelong dream: to ride a Harley Davidson.

The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off Part One

Jonny Kennedy died in 2003 aged 36. He had a terrible genetic condition called Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB) – which meant that his skin literally fell off at the slightest touch, leaving his body covered in agonising sores and leading to a final fight against skin cancer. In his last months Jonny decided to work with filmmaker Patrick Collerton to document his life and death, and the result was a film, first broadcast in March 2004, that was an uplifting, confounding and provocatively humorous story of a singular man.

The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off Part Two

Jonny Kennedy died in 2003 aged 36. He had a terrible genetic condition called Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB) – which meant that his skin literally fell off at the slightest touch, leaving his body covered in agonising sores and leading to a final fight against skin cancer. In his last months Jonny decided to work with filmmaker Patrick Collerton to document his life and death, and the result was a film, first broadcast in March 2004, that was an uplifting, confounding and provocatively humorous story of a singular man.

The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off Part Three

Jonny Kennedy died in 2003 aged 36. He had a terrible genetic condition called Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB) – which meant that his skin literally fell off at the slightest touch, leaving his body covered in agonising sores and leading to a final fight against skin cancer. In his last months Jonny decided to work with filmmaker Patrick Collerton to document his life and death, and the result was a film, first broadcast in March 2004, that was an uplifting, confounding and provocatively humorous story of a singular man.

The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off Part Four

Jonny Kennedy died in 2003 aged 36. He had a terrible genetic condition called Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB) – which meant that his skin literally fell off at the slightest touch, leaving his body covered in agonising sores and leading to a final fight against skin cancer. In his last months Jonny decided to work with filmmaker Patrick Collerton to document his life and death, and the result was a film, first broadcast in March 2004, that was an uplifting, confounding and provocatively humorous story of a singular man.

The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off Part Five

Jonny Kennedy died in 2003 aged 36. He had a terrible genetic condition called Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB) – which meant that his skin literally fell off at the slightest touch, leaving his body covered in agonising sores and leading to a final fight against skin cancer. In his last months Jonny decided to work with filmmaker Patrick Collerton to document his life and death, and the result was a film, first broadcast in March 2004, that was an uplifting, confounding and provocatively humorous story of a singular man.

Denied

When I met Sheila Wessenberg, she was living the American nightmare. She had a potentially fatal illness, but because she was uninsured her life seemed expendable. She said to me, “”There is no reason why anyone should be shoved into homelessness and helplessness just to live.”” She was referring to the fact that she could only get publicly funded health care if she gave up her home and her car. In the meantime, her doctor had abandoned her and she had already gone seven months with no chemotherapy.

Blind Faith

 Blind Faith reconsiders the notion of “disability”, explores the creative space between lightness and darkness, and envisions art as a collaboration and act of faith.