An intimate look into the mind of Niall McNeil, an artist and performer with Down syndrome, and his unique chosen family. In Lay Down Your Heart, Niall introduces us to his many “family members,” his multiple “children,” his renowned “ex-wife” and director of the film Marie Clements, and other bonds forged through open-hearted creativity.
This feature documentary offers a comparison of the care of two boys with Down syndrome. Danny lives at home with his brothers and sisters and attends a special neighborhood school for children with disabilities. Nicky lives in a large institution for persons with intellectual disabilities. This film clarifies common misconceptions about intellectual disabilities, and presents an intimate portrait of the families, staff, and communities that come together to assist Danny and Nicky in learning, playing, and living a fulfilling life.
This short animated documentary offers an intimate glimpse into the exceptional mindsets and emotional lives of four adult artists with Down Syndrome. An artful, four-way essay about ability, film explores how it feels to be a little bit unusual.
In her follow-up to her award-winning film, John and Michael, filmmaker Shira Avni pursues a deeper understanding of esteem and disability by inviting Petra, Matthew, Daninah, and Katherine to consider their pasts, relationships and ambitions.
“We’re beautiful, the whole gang. We’re special,” says Jean of the 15-odd employees at The Artisan—a workshop employing people with intellectual disabilities. Jean is the self-described “handyman and best-looking” member of the group. A moving celebration of difference, The Artisans captures daily life at an organization where the workers are as courageous as they are colourful.
In this short film, Toronto artist Petra Tolley, who has Down syndrome, performs a soliloquy that encapsulates her distinctive take on the social self. Drawing from her emotional experiences, she illustrates what it feels like to be “in the middle.” Employing rotoscopy, hand-drawn animation techniques and subtle stereoscopic 3D, the film captures Petra as she engages the camera with unflinching directness and dignity.
This animated short, etched directly onto tinted 70 mm film, depicts the story of two sisters: Viola, who writes novels in a dark room, and Marie, her only companion. Disfigured, Viola counts on her sister to take care of her and shelter her from the outside world. But when an unexpected stranger turns up on their front door, the sisters' quiet lives are disrupted and their routine turns to chaos.
Luben & Elena is a modern day love story that travels across continents and cultures in pursuit of what makes a place a home. Renowned artists, Luben Boykov and Elena Popova, whose formative years were in the midst of intellectual communist Bulgaria, entered adulthood in the “new world” of Newfoundland. Their work came to intimately define the culture and landscape of the province, underscoring in a very real and visual way how the immigrant experience shapes and defines place. Twenty five years later, they embrace transformation in Sicily. A timely immigration story, Luben & Elena is an expression of the imperative of inclusion and a poignant reminder of the impermanence of everything.
In community archives across British Columbia, local knowledge keepers are hand-fashioning a more inclusive history. Through a collage of personal interviews, archival footage and deeply rooted memories, the past, present and future come together, fighting for a space where everyone is seen and everyone belongs. History is what we all make of it.
Even at a frail 90, Martha Katz has an impish energy that remains undiminished. She chides grandson-filmmaker Daniel Schubert over his choice of shirt during a visit to her Los Angeles home, but there’s trauma beneath the humour. At 14, Martha and her family were torn from their village in Czechoslovakia and shipped to Auschwitz. A visit to a Holocaust museum ignites painful memories, including a haunting personal encounter with one of Nazi Germany’s most notorious figures. For Martha, however, the emphasis is on a tough but rewarding postwar life in Winnipeg, which she fondly recalls in this warm, intimate portrait of an unrelenting survivor.
Wintopia is an intimate father-daughter story and poignant search for the meaning of utopia. Following the quick and tragic death of Peter Wintonick, Canada’s “documentary ambassador to the world”, his daughter Mira Burt-Wintonick dives into her father’s obsession with untangling the contradiction that is utopia. The remains of his unfinished film and several hundred hours of raw footage shot over 15 years leads Mira to surprising places and connections with her father, compelling all of us to live life with purpose.