Film Review

From Educational Media Reviews Online – March 2008
Reviewed by Lori Widzinski, Health Sciences Library, University at Buffalo, State University of New York

Highly Recommended

Date Entered: 3/26/2008

At first glance, Body and Soul: Diana and Kathy seems like any other well made documentary about the courageous lives of two disabled women in a unique situation. Kathy has severe cerebral palsy and her caretaker of 38 years, Diana, has Down Syndrome. As their individual stories unfold, filmmaker Alice Elliott seamlessly morphs a typical inspirational piece into the quintessential disability rights film.

As we get to know Kathy and Diana, how they met, their family backgrounds and growing up in an America even less attuned to the disabled than we are today, we soon see how they complement each other. Like anyone else, they have experienced life’s joys, traumas, and excitements, both because of and in spite of their disabilities. Kathy’s intellect and emotional presence enmesh with Diana’s physical abilities, each strengthening the other’s weaker areas to create a team that allows them to not only survive, put thrive independently. Their situation beautifully illustrates the importance of independent living for the disabled. Their ability and fierce desire to remain in their own home is palpable as they fight to keep state institutions for the disabled closed in Illinois. The interplay between them is astonishing, and at the same time completely understandable. Disability rights activists for over 35 years; these two extraordinary women truly are, as Diana says at the end of the film, body and soul for each other.

One of the hallmarks of a fine piece of art, no matter the medium, is that it makes you think about it long after the initial contact. Elliott does just that in this film, brilliantly chronicling the perfect duo to champion this cause, resulting in an inspiring, humbling, and educational film. She accomplishes what good documentary filmmaking should-an emotional bond with the subjects and a desire to help their cause. While it will find a place in academic library collections supporting disability studies and rehabilitation, social work, and related health sciences fields, most everyone will benefit from viewing Body and Soul: Diana and Kathy. Highly recommended.

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