________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 21 . . . .June 24, 2005


Wheelchair Challenge. (My Brand New Life).

Kaveh Nabatian (Director). Ina Fichman (La Fête Producer). Pierre Lapointe (NFB Producer). Ina Fichman (La Fête Executive Producer). Sally Bochner (NFB Executive Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2004.
23 min., 33 sec., VHS, $99.95.
Order Number: C9104 041.

Grades 5-8 /Ages 10-13.

Review by Cathy Vincent-Linderoos.

**** /4



Rahim, a long, lanky teenager from T dot O (that's Toronto, Ontario) loves to play basketball and video games and has decided he's game for an entirely new challenge.

     Shayne, another teen athlete from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), uses a manual wheelchair because he has no legs. He has the use of one arm. Confident of his prowess on and off the basketball court and hockey rink, Shayne challenges Rahim to spend three days with him, getting around and participating in everyday life without the use of his legs.

     At Shane's school, Rahim uses a manual wheelchair to attend Spanish class, go to lunch at the cafeteria and negotiate the halls. He learns some wheelchair basketball skills from Shayne on an outdoor court. While Shayne demonstrates with apparent ease how he dribbles, passes, occasionally travels and frequently scores, Rahim experiences a few unexpected frustrations. Attempting to play sledge hockey with the SledgeHammers sitting down with his legs taped together is a whole different story for Rahim and an eye-opener for anyone who has never seen, let alone played, this challenging game.

     This creative video is partially seen "through" Rahim's own video diary. His record consists of personal observations telling how he felt before, during and after numerous brand new experiences. Segments of the video show the two teenagers together at Shane's school, at a basketball clinic at the Air Canada Centre (ACC) with Vince Carter of Raptors fame, taking in the crowds and curbs at Kensington Market in downtown Toronto, and on the Icelands hockey rink in Mississauga. These parts are effectively interspersed with shots of Rahim interviewing himself while speaking to the camcorder at his home. A number of able-bodied elementary-aged children are filmed answering questions about their impressions of life using a wheelchair.

     The film shows several aspects of Rahim's experiment living as a person with a disability in "fast-forward." We're quickly given the idea, for example, of how long it would take him to go upstairs backwards while sitting down on the steps at home, using only his arms. A couple of possible transportation options are shown. At the end of the three exhausting days for Rahim, he and Shane part as good friends who will stay in touch by MSN.

     The video would be especially useful to teachers who want to show their physical education classes that students with disabilities are students first and foremost. They compete in sports for all the same reasons as their able-bodied peers: the fun, the glory and the friendships. Shane, who says that he loves his life and wouldn't trade it for anything, is proud of his many trophies and his photos showing him with numerous celebrities. His sense of humour and his positive attitude convey a well-deserved pride of self. The video would be appropriate to use in segregated or mainstream classes with or without students with physical disabilities. This video would be an excellent one to show students who are trying their hand at filming their own takes on "My Brand New Life" in classes such as guidance or career studies. The video is close-captioned for use with a decoder.

Highly Recommended.

Cathy Vincent-Linderoos is a retired teacher living in London, ON, who is a member of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA) Committee. She uses a motorized wheelchair.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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