This Saturday, after our local Down syndrome awareness walk, the film “Produce” had it’s Louisville premiere. It showed how you can’t predict what a person with Down syndrome will be able to do.
Long-time readers will remember the Hollywood beginning to last year’s walk.
Well, a year later, the Produce team brought the finished film back to Louisville.
That morning, DSL held it’s annual walk. And, again, Chakraborty and DeSanctis shared the main stage, sharing about DeSanctis’ busy year of touring other film festivals and the reaction “Produce” has enjoyed (see photo above).
Saturday evening, Louisvillians got the chance to see the film for themselves.
Key scenes were filmed at Slugger Field, where Louisville’s Triple-A baseball team, the Louisville Bats, play. It was a fitting location for “Produce” to have its Louisville premiere back at Slugger Field.
The film played to a sold out crowd, with staff bringing in additional seating to accommodate the turn-out.
The film centers around a former professional baseball player trying to deal with alcoholism and raising his teenage daughter. His life begins to turn for the better when he allows himself to be open to interacting with “Produce,” a young man with Down syndrome who works in the produce section at the local grocery.
I had seen only a bit of the film when it was shown at this summer’s National Down Syndrome Congress’ convention. I was surprised by much of what I saw in the film.
Even in the small snippet I watched at the NDSC convention, I was impressed by DeSanctis’ acting. This was his first time being on film. But, his ability to convey emotion through his nonverbal expressions impressed me, even more than his ability to nail his lines.
The crowd seemed equally impressed.
They laughed when the movie built to a laugh; they sighed and shook their heads when DeSanctis’ character is mistreated in the film; and they “awe-d” when Produce delivers some flowers to a girl.
After the movie, Chakraborty and DeSanctis hosted a “Q&A.” During the session, Chakraborty shared a touching story.
“Produce” was first shown at the Dallas International Film Festival in April this year. There, a father of a three year-old daughter with Down syndrome shared how the film had changed what he thought was possible for his daughter.
DeSanctis’ own father shared that same sentiment with me at Slugger Field.
DeSanctis’ father has been active with DSL since his son’s birth. Indeed, at the very first Dads’ Night Out I attended, it was myself, two other fathers who had children under the age of 1, and DeSanctis’ dad.
On Saturday, after the film and the Q&A, as his son signed autographs, I asked his father if he ever could have envisioned this moment when his son was born? DeSanctis’ Dad shook his head in disbelief and said, “no way. No way could we have expected this.”
It’s a lesson that professional guidelines even counsel medical professionals on: be cautious in making predictions about what any child will ultimately be able to do.
It is easy to see the limits life can place on any of us. But, like the father in the movie, or DeSanctis’ own father, or the chance the Produce team took in casting DeSanctis in the title role despite never acting on film, if you can be open to the possibility of the unimaginable, sometimes, just sometimes, the unimaginable can happen for you, for your loved one, and for a young man with Down syndrome who gives an amazing performance in the film “Produce.”
Efforts are being made for Produce to get wider distribution. If you would like to help with that, simply “Like” the film’s Facebook page at this link.