Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Movie with Abe: Crip Camp

Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution
Directed by James Lebrecht and Nicole Newnham
Released March 25, 2020 (Netflix)

There are many reasons that true equality doesn’t exist between all people in the United States and the larger world. Clear physical signs of difference inspire exaggerated reactions and attempts even by those meaning well to create a distinction between the able-bodied and those with disabilities. It’s possible that those who are deemed unlike the established norm will never have experienced a situation in which they are treated merely as people, not separated or given special attention because of the needs they have, which can understandably make them feel ostracized and as if they’ll never truly fit in.

In 1971, Camp Jened in upstate New York welcomed a diverse group of campers with disabilities, bringing in hippies to serve as counselors and offering attendees the chance to truly express themselves in a safe and warm environment. This documentary includes archive footage from the camp of daily activities and interviews with many of the people there, as well as more recent reflective conversations with those who were there and who translated their positive experience into advocacy for government legislation for official protections and accommodations to be mandated.

This is a very affirming film, one that meets a number of people who have been made to feel marginalized and gives them an uninterrupted voice. It’s inspiring to hear about the spirit of openness that permeated Camp Jened and the incredible impact it made on so many. There seem to be no judgments made in the construction of this film, allowing each person featured an equal opportunity to share their story and contribute to the narrative, particularly if they might not typically be featured as an interviewee due to difficulty speaking or communicating. It’s a wonderful way to extend the legacy of an institution whose almost haphazard mission was one of radical inclusion.

The fact that this film was made and released widely on an extremely popular streaming service means that, at the very least, it should provide a chance for those unexposed to seeing how people with disabilities live and are often treated to have a better understanding, and to hopefully reach the conclusion that a notion like “separate but equal,” applied for any reason, is not acceptable. Fortunately, there are many advances that have happened since much of what is depicted in this film – in many cases as a result of activism by those portrayed – which have made the country a more accessible and navigable place. There is certainly still work to be done, and getting as many people as possible to see this very strong and stirring documentary is a great first step.


No comments: