There are plenty of documentaries about disabled people but very few are directed, written, or produced by disabled people. Today’s episode features a conversation with two filmmakers: Jen Brea of ‘Unrest’ and Jim LeBrecht of ‘Crip Camp.’ Jen and Jim talk about their films, the power of disability narratives, the importance of documenting our disability communities and cultures, and how the filmmaking community needs to be more inclusive.
James LeBrecht. (January 8, 2018). A Place at the Table: Doc Filmmakers with Disabilities on Building Careers and Disproving Stereotypes. Documentary Magazine.
Samantha Raphelson. (January 2, 2018). ‘Unrest’ Director Turns Camera On Herself To Document Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. National Public Radio.
Jennifer Brea is an independent documentary filmmaker based in Los Angeles. She has an AB from Princeton University and was a PhD student at Harvard until sudden illness left her bedridden. In the aftermath, she rediscovered her first love, film. Her feature documentary, Unrest, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, where it won a Special Jury Prize. She is also co-creator of Unrest VR, winner of the Sheffield Doc/Fest Alternate Realities Award. An activist for invisible disabilities and chronic illness, she co-founded a global advocacy network, #MEAction and is a TED Talker.
About the Film
Jennifer Brea is an active Harvard PhD student about to marry the love of her life when suddenly her body starts failing her. Hoping to shed light on her strange symptoms, Jennifer grabs a camera and films the darkest moments unfolding before her eyes as she is derailed by M.E. (commonly known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), a mysterious illness some still believe is “all in your head.”
In this story of love and loss, newlyweds Jennifer and Omar search for answers as they face unexpected obstacles with great heart. Often confined by her illness to the private space of her bed, Jen is moved to connect with others around the globe. Utilizing Skype and social media, she unlocks a forgotten community with intimate portraits of four other families suffering similarly. Jennifer Brea’s wonderfully honest portrayal asks us to rethink the stigma around an illness that affects millions of people. Unrest is a vulnerable and eloquent personal documentary that is sure to hit closer to home than many could imagine.
James LeBrecht, Producer & Director, has over 35 years of experience as a film and theater sound designer and mixer, author, producer and disability rights activist.
Jim’s work as an advocate for the rights of people with disabilities began in high school as a member of Disabled in Action, a pioneering disability rights group. While in college at UC, San Diego, he helped found the Disabled Students Union. In recent years LeBrecht has recommitted to advocacy work, which had taken a back seat to his audio career. Jim is currently a board member at the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, a leading organization working for the rights of the disabled through education, legislation and litigation.
Jim believes that “the time has come for us to make our own films and television shows. We need to tell our own stories.” He’s pushing his chair as hard as he can to make this happen.
Jim is the founder of Berkeley Sound Artists (BSA), an audio postproduction house, located in Berkeley, California. Known as a skillful sound designer and mixer, LeBrecht’s work can be heard in films that have played on HBO, PBS, and at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Films that he has mixed have screened at film festivals including Sundance, Tribeca, South by Southwest, True/False, Telluride and Berlin. BSA was proud to be the sound house for The Blood of Yingzhou District, which won the Academy Award for short documentary in 2006. Other credits include The Waiting Room, The Devil and Daniel Johnston, Daughter From Danang, Have You Heard From Johannesburg, We Were Here, Bang: the Bert Berns Story, and Audrie and Daisy. Jim’s list of film credits (over 145) can be viewed at http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0495898/
LeBrecht started his career in the theater, working as the resident sound designer at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre for 10 years. His sound designs for theater have also been heard at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, The Public Theater in NY and the La Jolla Playhouse and the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego.
Jim co-authored (with Deena Kaye) the book Sound and Music for the Theatre: the art and technique of design. Now in it’s 4th edition, the book is used all over the world as a textbook. One reviewer called it “The Bible of sound design for theater.”
For more about the team behind Crip Camp: Nicole Newnham, Producer & Director and Sara Bolder, Producer: http://www.cripcamp.com/about-the-team/
For more about Crip Camp: http://www.cripcamp.com/about-the-film/
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Geraldine Ah-Sue, Audio Producer
Alice Wong, Writer, Producer, Interviewer
Cheryl Green, Text Transcript
Lateef McLeod, Introduction
Mike Mort, Artwork
Theme Music (used with permission of artist)
Song: “Dance Off”
Artist: Wheelchair Sports Camp
“Sunday Picnic” by Lobo Loco (Sunday Picnic (ID 719) by Lobo Loco is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License)
“Malte Junior – Hall” by Lobo Loco (Malte Junior – Hall (ID 738) by Lobo Loco is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License)
“Myth of Parzival” by Lobo Loco (Myth Of Parzival (ID 561) by Lobo Loco is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License)