Documentary film casts light on a remarkable friendship

From The Chapel Hill News РMarch 2008
by Robin Baker, Special to The Chapel Hill News

The Arc of Orange County, approaching its 30th anniversary, continues its long history of promoting full community participation in areas of life for individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

To that end, on Wednesday, April 2, The Arc will host a new short documentary film directed by Academy Award nominee Alice Elliott.

“Body & Soul: Diana & Kathy” is an intimate portrait of two women determined to make a difference. The film tells the true story about two lifelong friends in Springfield, Ill. Diana drives, cooks, shops, and has been Kathy’s personal assistant and friend for the past 35 years. Remarkably, Diana has Down syndrome, a genetic condition that gives her one extra chromosome and a lower IQ.

Kathy, on the other hand, is 61 years old and has a degree in English, but is non-verbal, and has had cerebral palsy since her birth.

The documentary follows Diana and Kathy through their daily routines and informs viewers of each of the women’s life story — Kathy’s loving childhood and Diana’s abusive abandonment, their struggles with health and Medicare, their hopes and dreams to tell the world their story, and plans for the future. As part of their ongoing activist efforts to demystify disability, Diana and Kathy invited Elliott into their home to create the film.

The film, an official selection of the 2008 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, will be shown Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the UNC School of Social Work, Tate-Turner-Kuralt Building, 325 Pittsboro Street.

Admission is free, but The Arc of Orange County does appreciate donations.

The film will also be shown Friday at 10:15 a.m. at the Weaver Auditorium at the Durham School of the Arts.

Elliot, who was born in Durham, and producer Simone Pero Audi will be on hand for a question-and-answer session after each screening.

“Body & Soul: Diana and Kathy” was nominated for the 2007 IDA Documentary Award and was an official selection of the Big Sky Documentary, Mill Valley, Heartland, Hot Springs, Rocky Mountain Women’s, Santa Barbara International, Palm Springs International, Cleveland International, Brattleboro Women’s and the Nazariya Women’s film festivals.

Elliott has worked in theater, film and television for more than 35 years. She is a director, writer, producer, actress, parent, college level teacher, advocate for the disabled, cinematographer, New Day film distribution cooperative member-owner and voiceover artist. Her short documentary, “The Collector of Bedford Street,” was nominated for an Academy Award in 2002.

The Arc seeks to accomplish its mission through advocacy, education and collaboration, as well as through the provision of quality supports to individuals, their families and the community. The Arc believes that all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have strengths, abilities, and inherent value; are equal before the law; and must be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of the level of their disability. The Arc works toward ensuring that all people have the fundamental moral, civil, and constitutional rights and opportunities to live, learn, work, play and worship in communities of their choosing.