WEDNESDAY, MARCH 25 – Today is National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day. A neurological disorder that develops during infancy or early childhood, cerebral palsy is a disorder that permanently affects body movement and muscle coordination. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, there is no cure for the disorder, but there are various forms of treatment for people with cerebral palsy including:
- physical and occupational therapy
- speech therapy
- medication to ease muscle spasms, seizures and pain
- surgery to correct anatomical abnormalities or release tight muscles
- braces or other orthotic devices
- wheelchairs and rolling walkers
- communication aids
True to Heartland Film’s mission of inspiring filmmakers and audiences through the transformative power of film, the Heartland Film Festival has exhibited a variety of films that feature protagonists overcoming adversity and adapting to change. Two films that address the challenges associated with cerebral palsy and shine a light on individuals with the disorder are Becoming Bulletproof (2014 Heartland Film Festival Audience Choice Award Winner, Documentary Feature) and This Is Where We Live (2013 Heartland Film Festival Award Winner, Narrative Feature).
Directed by Michael Barnett, Becoming Bulletproof is a documentary about A.J. Murray, 29, who has cerebral palsy and lives with his mother, Cynthia, who takes care of him full-time in their Atlanta home. To their great surprise, A.J., who has always dreamed of acting in films, is invited to participate in a camp designed to help build a community (rather than paid “staff and clients”) to support friendships between people with or without disabilities.
Weaving between 1890s period drama and behind-the-scenes realities, this documentary follows A.J. mastering lines, pushing through take after take and showing up in costume on time. As A.J. grapples with these high expectations and grows in spirit, he becomes part of a vibrant community of friends working together to produce a lasting artwork. Through his story we gain a moving vision of what a more inclusive, creative and desegregated world might look like.
This Is Where We Live
Directed by Josh Barrett and Marc Menchaca, This Is Where We Live tells the story of the Sutton family living in a small town in the Texas Hill Country. Diane Sutton is the caregiver to her 25-year old son August, who has cerebral palsy, and her husband Bob, who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Suffering from her own health issues, Diane is warned by her doctor to make changes to her daily routine, not just her full-time job of working stock at a supermarket, but also the exhausting physical demands that August’s care presents. After almost dropping August while carrying him onto the front porch on a recent return home from the store, Diane hires Noah Warden to build a wheelchair ramp up the steps to the house.
Noah strikes up a conversation with August while building the ramp, and August–who is physically unable to speak–observes Noah throughout. Noah joins the family for dinner that evening as partial payment for his labor; the Suttons are having a hard time making ends meet. As Noah heads out the door after dinner, Diane catches him and asks if he would like to pick up some work helping out with August during the day while she is at work and he accepts. As the primary caregiver for this family, it is clear that, while asking for help may not come easily to this woman, Diane desperately needs assistance to carry this family forward.