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'Crip Camp' Opens 2020 Sundance Film Festival With a Message of Revolution and Hope

The 2020 Sundance Film Festival opened last night with two documentaries: Taylor Swift: Miss Americana” and “Crip Camp,” directed by Nicole Newnham and Jim Lebrecht. One about one of America’s most popular singers and the other about one of America’s most overlooked minority populations. The contrast could not be more clear. Both films touch on politics, but that is about all they have in common.

“Crip Camp” takes us into the world of people with disabilities. It follows the untold story of the disability rights movement through the backdrop of the childhood summer camp where many of the activists found their voices and sense of independence.

Within a nostalgic camp setting, we meet a group of unlikely heroes who band together to change the world. The film depicts Judy Heumann as the leader of this revolution. At the Q&A that followed the film’s premiere, when asked about what comes next for this movement, Heumann saw this form of inclusion on the screen as a start and commented: “The film represents the absence of people with disabilities in our society…” Now, Sundance has brought this minority into the spotlight with the rest of the stars.


The Sundance Film Festival receives 1,774 documentary feature-length submission and accepts 49. Beyond the message of the film, by positioning it on opening night, Sundance is making a statement of inclusion. There is room at the table for more than Taylor Swift.

This is a groundbreaking year for disability films. Some noticeable cracks in the inaccessible glass ceiling of Hollywood are starting to show. After this summer’s box office success of “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” we are witnessing a year with groundbreaking authentic representation both on the big screen and the small. Efforts by The Ruderman Foundation, Respectability, ReelAbilities Film Festival and many more are starting to pay off.

Thirty years after the ADA, the laws might have changed, but the culture still needs to change and these films are doing that. Netflix will be taking “Crip Camp” to the masses around the world, but it is the Sundance stamp of approval that will elevate this message.

Image Credits: Isaac Zablocki