Is There Anybody Out There?
‘I love and respect my body. Being this way is not the problem.’
This film is a must for everybody to see, whether you’re disabled or not. Director/writer Ella Glendining sets off on a search for her reflection: a quest to find someone who looks like her, someone who shares her unique configuration, which she’s had from birth.
This documentary offers up a very personal and open Ella to camera, her travels, interviews with her parents and others including other disabled friends, and intense archival footage. You get a real sense of the time and place of Ella’s life and what has formed her. Particularly engaging is her interview with her disabled friend where Ella asks if she (Ella) has ever hurt her friend’s feelings by not understanding her friend’s impairments and requirements – a very unusual topic to air in general for first person disability documentaries – where the focus shifts to an intradisability question both sensitive and illuminating.
We follow Ella’s excitement in tracking down others like her and finding ‘ways to celebrate [her] freakishness.’ Another major theme is the medicalisation of people like Ella, and we get to hear about the surgical options offered to Ella and others, which really pushes Ella to debate how she manages herself, how she negotiates the medical minefield she finds herself in, and how she reaches a kind of peace with herself about what she intends to do with her body.
‘To fly we have to have resistance.’ Maya Lin
This is an eye-opening story with surprises.
Filmmakers are going to really enjoy Ella’s questions on the filmmaking process itself. It’s a very engaging ‘Everything you ever wanted to know about Disability – but were too afraid to ask’ film as we cover Special Ed (complete with horrendous archives), ableism (ditto), wheelchair politics, parental relationships, sex, love and birth, all wrapped in that most universal of human goals – finding a belonging place.
The pacing is superb. There’s a lot to get your head around and the archival footage is confronting – the edit balances the intense moments with music and quiet scenes to allow the audience to react and take a breather, to keep focussed but let yourself catch up with being hit in the face with reality checks about how disabled people, and children in particular, are viewed and treated.
You must watch to the very end – the TOFF team assure you that the ending absolutely DEFEATS ableism.