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Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution (2020)Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution (2020)

The first forty minutes of this film tell the story of the co-director Jim Lebrecht, who was born with spina bifida, but who was also blessed with an extroverted personality of optimism and determination. The movie opens in 1971 when the fifteen-year-old Lebrecht spent a summer at Camp Jened, which was "run by a bunch of hippies" in the Catskills of New York, and designed specifically for people with all sorts of severe disabilities. The black and white films and photos of the counselors and campers back then are nostalgic, incredibly inspirational, and for those who were there, empowering. In many ways Camp Jened was "a social experiment that was a by-product of the times." The last seventy minutes of the film are equally inspirational, and overtly political. This part tells the story of the civil rights movement for the 40 million Americans with disabilities that grew partly out of Camp Jened, and that was led by the indomitable Judy Heumann. It was a long, uphill struggle for people who were routinely discriminated against in almost every aspect of ordinary daily life: transportation, education, employment, health care, and even (especially?) simple access. The film ends with the 1990 signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act by President George Bush, and thus its 30th anniversary in 2020, and with a haunting question by Heumann: "why should I feel fully satisfied just because now I can go to a public bathroom without hindrance?" Crip Camp won the Audience Award at Sundance 2020.

Dan Clendenin:

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