Last year, the fictional movie Wonder captured hearts of filmgoers as it told a story about a young boy with a congenital deformity and his challenge to be accepted and make friends. This year, a group of Wilton parents is hoping a documentary about three young American adults with intellectual disabilities will similarly captivate local audiences and help them understand a little bit more about acceptance of people with different abilities both here at home and elsewhere.
Indeed, Wilton has very active participants in its special needs community, but often their activities and interaction are limited to within the community itself. Now, by bringing the movie Intelligent Lives to Wilton, a group of Wilton parents are asking the wider community to consider how important it is to integrate individuals with special needs appreciate them for the totality of all that they can offer.
Wilton resident Karen Earls had a connection through a friend to award-winning filmmaker Dan Habib, the director/producer of Intelligent Lives. The movie stars three pioneering young American adults with intellectual disabilities–Micah, Naieer, and Naomie–who challenge perceptions of intelligence as they navigate high school, college, and the workforce. The film features Academy Award-winning actor and narrator Chris Cooper, who puts the lives of these central characters in context through the emotional personal story of his own son Jesse. Intelligent Lives challenges what it means to be ‘intelligent,’ and points to a future in which people of all abilities can fully participate in higher education, meaningful employment and intimate relationships.
The film asks a central question about intelligence testing: “Can any attempt to measure intelligence predict a person’s value?”
The message of the movie hits home for Earls.
“I have an 8 year old son, Henry, with intellectual disability. Because of him, it is very important for me to help change people’s perception of intellectual disability and I hope that this movie will help to bring awareness and open doors. I do worry about my son’s future very much as he will be a dependent adult. Like any parent, I am committed to making his future be the best it can be. I hope that Wilton will be as excited to see this movie as I am. People seems so touched by the movie, Wonder. I hope they will feel the same about Intelligent Lives, which features real people and real stories.”
The three real people in the film do a lot to break stereotypes of intellectual disability. As the films synopsis explains, if they had been born in the first half of the 20th century, they might have been institutionalized or forcibly sterilized; they might never have gone to school.
“But Micah was born in 1984. Today he is a student at Syracuse University with a vibrant social life, a sophisticated grasp of social media, and a job co-teaching university classes—as well as an IQ of 40. Naieer was born in 1999. He is a talented visual artist, immersed in general education classes and basketball games at a public high school in Dorchester, MA. Naomi is 25, and sings and dances in her Providence, R.I., Creole church alongside her hip-hop producer/brother, and she is working towards her first paid job.”
Earls and another Wilton parent, Adriana Quintero, are bringing the movie to Wilton through a company called Gathr.us to hold a screening as a fundraiser for Wilton Swag, the company created by the Community Steps participants to provides meaningful employment to disabled young adults. A portion of the ticket sales for the one-night-only, limited screening will benefit Wilton Swag and Community Steps.
The screening is on Wednesday, Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m. at Wilton Bow Tie Cinemas. Tickets cost $12 are only available for purchase in advance online. Organizers must sell at least 60 tickets for the screening to happen.
Earls is also hoping to bring Intelligent Lives to the Wilton School District as an educational tool for teachers and administrators, and also plans to offer to screen the movie for Wilton High School students as part of the disability awareness week events organized by the Parents Advisory Board.