October 21, 2011
Filmmaker Kareem Mortimer has been receiving accolades for his latest feature,"Children of God", which won 17 film awards--yet, another project he worked on at the same time is coming to light and may prove to be just as daring, thought-provoking and inspiring.
"I Am Not a Dummy"is our own Bahamian"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly", with some differences--notably that instead of becoming severely limited in his mobile ability at some point in his life, the film's protagonist, Michael Wells, was already born without the use of his body through a complicated breached birth that damaged his brain tissue.
Growing up in 1970s and 1980s Bahamas, no school would accept Michael as a student, believing his severely limited mobility was an indication of his ability to learn. Yet Michael's brain was very much active, and he was learning fast through observing his surroundings; so much so that he was able to form full words with a special typewriter.
Mortimer's documentary follows Michael's story through the lens of a special event in his life, and now audiences can as well. ZNS will be featuring the film on TV for the first time on October 30 at 9:30 p.m. That week,"I Am Not a Dummy"will also be available on DVD online and in local stores.
"I really hope that the audience gets to be inspired by this person's life,"says Mortimer."Some of us, we complain far too much about the mundane, and Michael never complains but enjoys life wholeheartedly. I think that's a really important lesson."
"Also, I want audiences to see that you can never be counted out--you can never count yourself out and you can never count out others."
Mortimer met Michael in 2005 when he was working at The Counsellors Ltd. creating human interest stories for their morning show. While piecing together a show about premature births, he met an interviewee who passed him on to Michael.
"We started talking through an online messenger and I was originally thinking we would do a piece on the morning show, but there was no response to that, so I started to shoot things on my own,"remembers Mortimer.
Through that, the filmmaker grew close with Michael, filming interviews with his family and family friends. When it was announced that Michael would be going on a cruise, Mortimer and his two-person film crew went with him, deciding to use the experience as the centre of the narrative for the documentary which, at this point, Mortimer was clearly creating.
"We had a great time watching Michael fulfill his dream,"says Mortimer.
With tons of footage, Mortimer then had to set the project aside to work on other commitments. Finally, in 2008 he took the plunge and edited it himself, then submitting it to the 2008 Bahamas International Film Festival. It was received well at the festival, but Mortimer was only truly satisfied when he learned that Michael enjoyed the film.
"What was more important to me was that Michael really appreciated the film and that we represented who he was,"he says."My documentary films, when I make them, I'm really inspired by the people I meet, the real people and their stories. It was important to me that he saw he was properly represented."
Now the filmmaker is even moving forward with a feature film inspired by Michael's life, which will be released in a few years and which he hopes will allow Michael's story to reach and inspire more people.
"Michael really inspired me,"he says."I mean, to write books with such limited movement?To have all of this going on in your mind and not having a way to expressing it, or people not believing that you can express it?And then to put on a smile and move forward and be funny?That's pretty amazing. It's a really important story."
Catch"I Am Not a Dummy"on ZNS on October 30 at 9:30 p.m. and look out for the DVD in local stores next week.
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