Rated R for language and sexual content. While the film is fundamentally about the civil rights violations upon the disabled, the movie does stress and encourage sexuality even at a particularly young age. There are also drug references, mostly in the context of the hippie generations. While most of the movie probably would get a PG rating, the language, drug, and sex stuff --although minimal-- definitely have a presence in the film. R.
DIRECTORS: James Lebrecht and Nicole Newnham
You can't only write your blog on good days. There is nothing I would rather do than to blow off this blog right now and to curl up with a good book while eating junk food and destroying my diet. Well, guess what? I can still destroy my diet while writing this blog. It's free cookies. Of course I'm going to eat them while frustrated.
I'm going to confront some personal biases. After all, real change happens not when people write off their own insecurities by making comparisons. I've always wanted to be cool with the disabled. I just know my own nervousness does actually poke its head when in the presence of those people who are handicapped. Does the intellectual part of me realize that those feelings are completely irrational? Totally. Do I hide behind the fact that most of the abled society also hides behind the same insecurities? Sure. But Crip Camp's great success is that it forced me to really look at myself objectively and take inventory of my own fears and discomforts. As a teacher, I had my own battles with 504. I feel like I'm confessing too much, but I know that 504 is absolutely necessary for the advancement of society. But sometimes, it is really hard to find a clear and direct argument to support 504. But Crip Camp does that.
What is brilliant about the film is the format of the movie. Yeah, I wouldn't necessarily preach about sexual promiscuity in a film where the moral high ground is so darned clear. I mean, I get it. Part of humanizing people is acknowledging that they have the same sexual needs as other people, but now I have a harder time recommending this film to everyone because it is so "get it any way you can" about it all. But the movie's brilliance (since I find myself so distractible right now) comes from the small-to-large build of the film. The movie starts off with the tiniest of premises: James Lebrecht had a hard time fitting in being handicapped in an abled society. Cool. Then it finds the connections to the titular camp and it seems like the documentary is going to be all about how these people found each other and found their new normal. Cool. But then, it goes into this insane spiral of how this one camp connected the major power players of the disabled civil rights movement and how those people tied into the actual civil rights movement, leading to a cultural revolution that still plays out today.
That's insane. I mean, when I saw that the Obamas' names were on this film, I thought it was simply to raise awareness for the disabled culture. Little did I know that this was a fundamental part of American history that most people didn't know about and that the world wouldn't be what it is without the existence of Camp Jened. Yeah, I wish the movie was called something else despite the very catchy name Crip Camp. But a lot of credits goes to the documentarians who used all of this old footage to make us relate to people who would go on to change the world. Since Crip Camp is about the disabled civil rights movement, I would harken this to a story about home videos about a young Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (you know, before he was Dr.) Imagine just having a place where we see young King feeling accepted for the first time ever and then wanting to spread that message to everyone because of his youth. That's this movie. Because this movie was made in 2020 using documentary footage from the '60s and '70s, we get to meet all of these legends as kids without really the knowledge that they would go on to shape policy for decades to come.
And that's where the James Lebrecht focus is kind of genius. I don't want to downplay anything that this guy did, but he's kind of the Nick Carraway of the story. He's rubbing elbows with greatness and he doesn't even know it. Yes, he did exactly what he wanted to do in life and he never let anyone stop him. That is documentary worthy in itself. But he's this guy on the sidelines of history. We think this story is about him, but it is really about Judy Heumann and the people she influence. It's this amazing redirect that completely recontextualizes the movie. James Lebrecht becomes this focus of how her efforts can really change a life for the individual. Because the movie takes this small scale, as well, it allows the message of anyone being able to make a difference to a point where the abstraction is taken out of it.
Yeah, I wish there wasn't the sex stuff in it. But that's just because I want to share this movie with my kids. It's such an amazing documentary and it is done smartly.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.