Saturday, December 29, 2007

New film whose star has Down syndrome

PRAYING WITH LIOR
Opens Theatrically on February 1st 2008
Part of a Growing Campaign to Raise Awareness aboutPeople with Disabilities in Faith Communities
Praying with Lior, the profoundly moving and entertaining documentary about an extraordinary family, a boy with Down Syndrome and his Bar Mitzvah will open theatrically in New York City at the Cinema Village on February 1st, and at the Laemmle Music Hall in Los Angeles on March 14, and other cities throughout the Spring. It will also have a special preview screening at the New York Jewish Film Festival on January 15, 2008.
Shot over three years and focusing on the months leading up to Lior's Bar Mitzvah in 2004, Praying with Lior draws a riveting portrait of a high-functioning, quick-witted, friendly and sincere boy, who, as he proudly approaches manhood, is simultaneously "retarded" and, according to his many admirers, a "spiritual genius." The film offers a wonderfully illuminating window into how disability can strengthen a family and a community. In extensive media coverage in Philadelphia where the film was shot, Praying with Lior has already been hailed for encouraging greater inclusion in faith communities for persons with disabilities.
Praying with Lior is not just a documentary film for diverse audiences. It's also the centerpiece of an ambitious outreach campaign to change the way people with disabilities are perceived and received by faith communities.
Over 54 million Americans are disabled. Less than half of our houses of worship are handicapped accessible. This number alone speaks to the abandonment of the disabled in faith communities. In a society that literally "worships" perfection and same-ness, individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities are dismissed and discriminated against everywhere. In the place where they should receive the most welcome and derive the most comfort -- their faith communities -- parents of children with special needs often hear "your child shouldn't be here."
Our goal for this film and outreach campaign is to create a sea change in the way we as a society value each individual. Lior's story presents a dramatic opportunity to demonstrate the contribution that every individual can make, no matter how "special" their needs are…or differently-abled. While society may view inclusion as the right or nice thing to do, Lior's example shows us that his presence actually enhances everyone else's religious experience. Lior's Bar Mitzvah is wonderful for him, but really, as one synagogue member says, "it's for us."
Almost nothing in our current culture has the power of film. In this climate, a film with humor, pathos, mysticism, and love about the impact of one youngster's spirituality, combined with a powerful outreach strategy can provide the impetus for enormous strides in understanding and systemic change. We hope that you will be part of our outreach campaign by spreading the word about this wonderful documentary.

I have asked to participate in the panel discussion after the Jan 15 showing in New York with the filmakers about the role of disabled individuals in the faith community. If I am invited, I will share my experiences here.