A 2016 film festival hit, “BEING SEEN” will change the way you view people with developmental disabilities! Revealing their full human capacities to be candidly self-aware, funny and acerbic, the film’s characters don’t define themselves by their disabilities; but by the love, passion, dreams and adversity they face.
With an estimated 1 billion people worldwide, having a disability places you in the world’s largest minority…
and yet, many of these people remain hidden and overlooked.
Our film asks, “How do we relate to these people just as people… and not like some political group that needs to be supported?”
Being Seen originated from a documentary commissioned by Lifehouse Agency in San Rafael, California, serving people living with developmental disabilities since 1954. Working with Lifehouse, we were offered an unique access to film a wide variety of people living with developmental disabilities throughout the Bay Area.
For more than two years, my cameraman and I met and talked with individuals, developing trust and ease with our filming and inquiry into their lives. When we asked people to reflect upon their own disabilities, we were deeply moved by the depth of their own self-reflection and awareness — encounters that quickly shattered our own preconceptions, biases and prejudices.
By including multiple voices, we hoped to widen our viewer’s impressions beyond the usual Hollywood portrayal of the singular, “exceptional” individual who, despite his/her disabilities, overcomes these types of incomprehensible odds. This film’s characters don’t define themselves by their disabilities; but by the love, passion, dreams and adversity they face.
As a filmmaker I found myself asking, “Do we not all struggle with some degree of personal and psychological wholeness?” My hope is that, in some small way, this film offers viewers an opportunity to get beyond the “otherness” that separates us and opens them to a more expansive view of people with developmental disabilities. I also would ask people to question the wider continuum of cognitive functioning we accept as “neuro-typical” or “normal.”
Rather than creating a polemic, we wanted to allow people with disabilities to simply reflect upon their own lives, desires and challenges. Rather than defining a person by a diagnosis, we wanted to show how these individuals have worked to create meaningful lives, meet adversity, and dream their own dreams.
“When members of minority groups make progress, it is because deep down most people know they are the same as us, as me, whoever the dominant majority is. But with our group [the disabled] it’s like, ‘No, no, no, they are not the same. They are not like us. They are not going to go to medical school if we give them a scholarship. They’re not going to become engineers.’ We labor under the barrier, the attitudinal barrier, that this population is too different to matter.”
—Timothy Shriver, Special Olympics Chairman