What do Billy Bob Thornton, Stephen J. Cannell, and Joe Pantoliano have in common with 1.4 billion children and adults worldwide?
All three are also featured in Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Harvey Hubbell V's stand-out documentary Dislecksia: The Movie, a film that may very well be the most complete cinematic expression of the truth of dyslexia presented in a way that is informative, heartfelt, and mighty entertaining.
Dislecksia: The Movie opens on October 4th in New York City in a release that coincides with National Dyslexia Awareness Month in October. After opening in New York City, the film opens in Los Angeles on October 11th and will have a nationwide one-night screening on October 17th followed by a city-by-city theatrical tour with Hubbell through early 2014 with indie distributor Area 23a.
Hubbell, himself an adult with dyslexia, takes the Michael Moore/Morgan Spurlock style approach to creating Dislecksia: The Movie by crafting the film in such a way that he presents what could be considered dry material in a way that is fun, layered, vivid, imaginative, and not that far removed from the primary teaching methods advocated for in the film.
In other words, it's a brilliant approach.
While such an approach can risk losing the balance between "entertainment" and "purpose," Hubbell does a terrific job of maintaining that balance in such a way that Dislecksia: The Movie entertains you while you're watching it then, long after you've sat through it, you realize that the ideas, images and thoughts behind the film are still weaving their way through your mind.
That's effective filmmaking.
Hubbell starts off nicely by owning his own early childhood experiences with dyslexia, though they didn't really call it that while he was growing up. With a sense of humor that I'm guessing has been hard-earned, Hubbell recalls the people and the words that he experienced as a child who went from a vibrant young boy to a troubled student seemingly overnight. He presents it in such a way that it's both entertaining and immensely moving.
While Hubbell's fingerprint is never that far from the film's material, he's also incorporated a wealth of research and a host of familiar folks whose personal experiences with dyslexia may even surprise you such as actor Billy Bob Thornton, the late television producer/writer Stephen J. Cannell, daytime actress Sarah Joy Brown, actor Joe Pantoliano and others. Hubbell also incorporates a few fun pursuits and facts such as:
- His camera follows an all dyslexic group of biology students into the Costa Rican rain forests;
- He points out that the game of Twister was invented by someone with dyslexia (which kind of makes sense, ya know?);
- and he just plain rips on the state of Wisconsin for its seemingly archaic approach towards helping its students with special needs.
The fun factor, believe it or not, goes on and on and includes such approaches as a real twist on the whole "talking head" thing when it comes to Hubbell's own guidance counselors and, as well, the use of appealing yet retro graphics to get his point across.
In short, Hubbell does whatever it takes to get his point across.
Dislecksia: The Movie has already had quite a bit of success on the film festival circuit before being picked up by Area 23a for its theatrical release, a release one can only hope will lead to wider visibility for the film and its important message. While I could have gone, at times, for just a tad less Hubbell and a bit more of the remarkably well presented interviews with educators who are inspiring enough to restore your faith in education, the truth is any quibble with the film is minor at best.
In fact, the real impact of the film may have only hit as I was sitting watching the film and admiring greatly the work of the Haskins Literacy Initiative when suddenly I felt my own tears flowing as I recalled the college instructor who managed to undo years of negative tapes and average grades by figuring out how my hydrocephalic brain learned best.
Then, she got all of my professors behind it. I went from a 2.5 GPA in high school to a 4.0 in my undergrad program.
Why? Because an inspired teacher figured me out and taught me how I could learn.
Dislecksia: The Movie will unquestionably inspire you in a similar way and will most likely give you fond memories of that teacher who most positively impacted your life even if you yourself don't have dyslexia. If you or someone you love does, this film may very well change your life.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic