SHAMELESS: THE ART OF DISABILITY (Bonnie Sherr Klein) Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
First impressions are deceiving, especially if the person you're meeting is in a wheelchair or has a disfigured face.
Bonnie Sherr Klein plays with this idea in the intentionally disorienting beginning to Shameless, her revealing documentary about living with disabilities.
We're introduced pretty quickly to a motley crew of five artists with various handicaps - including Klein herself, the acclaimed filmmaker of documentaries like Not A Love Story, who survived two strokes, brain surgery and near complete paralysis. This is her first film in 18 years.
At first it's confusing. Who's who? What's wrong with them? Gradually, though, Klein guides us deeper into these lives, making us rethink our initial judgments.
Her subjects are all fellow artists she befriended during her years of recovery, when she realized that people with disabilities were largely ignored by the media or surrounded by myths.
This film helps dispel those myths with humour, grace and not an ounce of sentimentality.
David Roche, whose face bears the scars of surgery from a childhood vascular disease, performs bits from a one-person show that celebrates his disfigured homeboys, like Quasimodo and Frankenstein.
Activist and poet Catherine Frazee cuts through societal assumptions and stereotypes with her sharp mind and mischievous wit. Look for a poignant bit about the Latimer case.
Punctuating it all is Klein's moving story of her own education and evolution. She says her family helped her get through, and one of the most telling scenes is her husband's revelation that 80 per cent of men whose wives have strokes leave them.
There are other disturbing facts here, but the tone of the film - marred slightly by a dated electronic score - is joyous and proud.
Director Klein will be in attendance Wednesday (October 4) at the Bloor for the first of Doc Soup's monthly screenings.