Compliments of The Jewish Federation of Grand Rapids, several members the Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan attended a Monday, May 1, 2017 motion picture at The Jewish Film Festival. The film was about a difficult but successful mountain climbing adventure by people with Down syndrome and their sisters and brothers. At the end of the film at Celebration! Cinema North viewing of My Hero Brother, James Cook, DSAWM Foundation board member, and Freddy, his brother with Down syndrome, told the audience about their lifelong relationship and their travels as adult siblings to China, Paris, and Rome. Their stories aligned beautifully with those in “My Hero Brother,” exemplifying the unique relationship between people with Down syndrome and their siblings.
Israeli writer and director Yonatan Nir crafted this 78-minute film about a bonding experience among female and male adult siblings and their adult sisters and brothers with Down syndrome. In the film, these amateur mountain climbers traveled from Tel Aviv to India to spend two-weeks in the Himalayas.
As Yonatan Nir explains, he hopes the viewers of his film will undergo an experience that will change the way of looking at the main characters – not as ill-fated people who have been given a chance to experience a brief release from suffering, but rather as human beings blessed with qualities many of us yearn to have, struggling with their limitations in an highly admirable and courageous way, and with the ability to open the hearts of those around them and turn them into better human beings.
The experience for the viewers, particularly those of us who are people with Down syndrome or their family members, is funny, touching, and very familiar. Some highlights:
- One sibling says, when his mountain climbing brother with Down syndrome cries in frustration and exhaustion, “I’ll dry your tears. You don’t need paper. I’m your paper, here. Wipe everything on me.”
- See the intensely blue Himalayan sky and hear one mountain climber tell his brother his Mommy is up there.
- Listen to a sibling promise his brother with Down syndrome that there will be a village at the top of the mountain and the two them will share a cola—a cold Coke.
I encourage you to find a time and place to view this film. I believe it will remind you of part of the Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan mission in which we are “promoting public awareness and supporting lifelong opportunities for individuals with Down syndrome and their families.”