CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 9. . . .November 1, 2013
This pleasing four-minute video shows a young Down Syndrome woman, Petra Tolley, acting out a poem that she has written and which she also narrates. Her poem is about her desire to be surrounded by her peers, to never be on the outside of the group, a place where she develops feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Petra’s poem is heartfelt and a typical response to the fear of being left out that is common to most of us, but surrounding her are other young adults with Down Syndrome. With a string orchestration and a strong beat as a musical background, they circle Petra, demonstrating the power of community. They move against a white backdrop where they all stand out. The lines of the poem appear on the top of the screen as Petra speaks. Black line drawings of the actors’ silhouettes and lines connecting the actors to Petra animate the narrative. The use of a variety of camera angles, so that Petra is seen from the inside, the outside and from everywhere in the circle, adds meaning to her words.
Director Shira Avni, who teaches animation at Concordia University in Montreal, has made several films for the National Film Board exploring the world of Down Syndrome adults. A theme of her work is the question of difference. Petra’s Poem shows that human needs are universal; the video can help overcome barriers that can exist because of differences and lack of understanding.
This video will be useful to draw parallels about the meaning of community, to teach about the range of abilities of Down Syndrome children as well as to teach methods of animation.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.