This is my first of two posts I wrote during the school year and never got around to finishing and publishing. These were entries I made after seeing two performances at Oberlin this fall. The first was a group of guys, including Darius Weems, who were raising awareness for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy by showing a movie about Darius, who is affected with the disease.
I watched Darius Goes West in West Lecture Hall last Tuesday, and I thought it was good.The movie centered on Darius, a 15-year-old with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Darius' brother Mario died of the same disease when he was 19, and Darius talks about his brother occasionally during the film.
Darius was definitely the best part of the movie, very personable, cheerful, and not looking for pity at all during any part of the movie. Darius loves the MTV show Pimp My Ride, and he and his friends (a collection of counselors at a camp for disabled kids) thought it would be fun to take a road trip to Los Angeles to get Darius' ride, that is, his electric wheelchair, pimped. In the process, MTV would be helping to educate people Darius' age about DMD, since the only current spokesperson is Jerry Lewis. The film points out that Jerry is basically unknown to teenagers, who are the ones who have to deal with DMD the most. DMD is a degenerative disorder that starts to express itself in young children, but really gets advanced in teen years, when many kids who were walking must transition to crutches, braces, and wheelchairs for the rest of their lives. Usually these patients die by the time they are 25. Along the way, Darius crosses a state line for the first time in his life, feels the waves of the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific, eats a tablespoon of straight wasabi, and travels half a mile below the earth into Carlsbad Caverns.
After the movie, the whole cast and crew came out on stage and talked about making the movie and touring the country since it was released, and after the talk, Darius and friends were out in the science center atrium, selling schwag and talking to everyone. They had been decorated at a dozen or so film festivals, and Darius had met Robert De Niro a few days prior. Darius was about to turn 20. Of course, the whole crew was really friendly, and really humble. For the most part they were still in school, and since the profits from the movie were all going to DMD research, they were broke like us.
I'm sure that the movie will raise awareness for muscular dystrophy, which I suppose is the main point of the whole thing. It also addressed (accidentally, it seemed) accessibility for disabled people as the crew traveled across the country. Carlsbad Caverns were extremely easy to get around, but Darius couldn't get into a gas station earlier to use the bathroom. These themes, for me, were secondary to a greater message in the film.
In the end, Darius' ride is pimped by a Atlanta ride pimper instead of MTV (who give a slew of awful excuses for not letting Darius on the show) and West Coast Customs (who are super friendly), and heartwarming music plays. It was a nice gesture, but Darius' trip was supposed to be a lot more about awareness-raising than ride-pimping. Most of all, I hope DGW shows more about living life even with a death sentence. We shouldn't pity anyone in a wheelchair because they need to live and clear their own obstacles (Whoooaaaaa preachy. Sorry). It always seemed to me that older people get this same kind of treatment, we put them away and don't give them anything constructive to do. I loved the documentary Young at Heart, and really thought it was one of the best movies out this year. Check it out if you're in the mood to laugh. And maybe cry. (I did. I'm still a man.)