The projectionist next to whom I was sitting asked why anyone would watch this. There is a moment in this 63-minute documentary shot over the span of a decade when Tony Knight is showing us a photograph from his perspective. In the photo, you see most people ignoring him. They try not to look at him. They probably were thinking, "Why would anyone watch him?"
Fashion photographer Courtney Bent goes to a center in Waterton, Mass., that houses and nurses individuals suffering from cerebral palsy. Director and producer George Kachadorian follows Bent, as she starts the "Picture This" project, which gives developmentally-challenged people the opportunity to create art using still cameras.
Bent interacts mainly with a group of about nine people with various forms of cerebral palsy and birth defects. Tony Knight, like most of the nine, is paraplegic. He cannot walk. He is confined to a motorized wheelchair. Bone deformities have also twisted his hands. This makes him not the most attractive man on the street. As a result, most people pass him on the street, desperately trying to ignore him, thinking, "Why would anyone watch this, him?"
In a recent episode of Oprah, Oprah Winfrey talked to Michael J. Fox who has Parkinson's disease. On the show, they addressed how most normal people tend to ignore those with disabilities. They don't want to see them, let alone watch them, and most often out of fear.
Courtney Bent says that when she first started taking pictures of the nine, the images did invoke fear, fear stemming from their tough life. She wanted not to project scary images but more images that related what their worlds were like.
The main idea was to show a day in the life of these people. However, what started as a day project turned into years. As maddening and frustrating as it seemed, there's joy and strength to be seen and learned here, how the human condition contends with a difficulty like this.
It's sad yet inspiring in a Born Into Brothels-kind of way, only the filmmakers here know they can't better the situation but merely provide an outlet that lets those trapped by disability out and, in small means, lets the world outside in.