A shift in de­pic­tions of dis­abil­ity

Metro Canada (Ottawa) - - Front Page -

Be­fore di­rect­ing the new film Breathe, about a par­a­lyzed po­lio sur­vivor who chooses to live out­side of the hos­pi­tal sys­tem in the 1950s, Andy Serkis was fa­mil­iar with the lives of those with dis­abil­i­ties.

His sis­ter has mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis and is wheel­chair-bound, and his mother taught dis­abled chil­dren, so Serkis grew up see­ing many pa­tients with po­lio, spina bi­fida and other con­di­tions. Serkis also co-founded The Imag­i­nar­ium Stu­dios with Jonathan Cavendish, whose fa­ther was the po­lio suf­ferer por­trayed by An­drew Garfield in Breathe, now in theatres.

“So there were many rea­sons for want­ing to make this film,” said Serkis.

“This film was about look­ing at the dif­fer­ence in at­ti­tude to­wards be­ing dis­abled in 2017 and in the 1950s, when they were con­sid­ered ‘other,’ ba­si­cally. They were con­sid­ered to be kept out of sight and out of mind and kept com­fort­able but with no pos­si­bil­ity of be­com­ing a nor­mal part of the hu­man race, no sense of equal­ity.”

Breathe is one of sev­eral new or up­com­ing films fea­tur­ing char­ac­ters with dis­abil­i­ties. Other ex­am­ples in­clude Stronger, Down­siz­ing, Won­der­struck, Never Steady, and Never Still.

“I think there is more in­ter­est in sto­ries about and by peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties,” said Liviya Men­del­sohn, artis­tic di­rec­tor of the Ree­la­bil­i­ties Toronto Film Fes­ti­val, which fea­tures projects by and about those who are deaf and dis­abled.

Road­side at­trac­tions

in stronger, Jake Gyl­len­haal plays real-life Jeff Bau­man, who lost his legs below the knee in the Bos­ton Marathon bomb­ing.

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