Documentary WHEN I WALK Kicks Off POV's 27th Season on PBS, 6/23
Jason DaSilva tells a brave and remarkable story in When I Walk. He was already an accomplished documentary filmmaker (Lest We Forget, Olivia's Puzzle) by the age of 25. If there is glamour in the world of documentary, DaSilva garnered his share of it with his intelligence, good looks and genial manner, and he was able to travel the world making films about people and issues that mattered to him.
In 2006, DaSilva took a camera with him on a family vacation in the Caribbean. Though he had been diagnosed only months earlier with multiple sclerosis, the disease, which attacks the central nervous system, had until then remained invisible. Then a family member holding the camera catches the moment when the young man's legs crumple under him, leaving him helpless. The episode passes and DaSilva recovers his strength, but his collapse heralds the onset of an untreatable, unpredictable, often disabling illness. Being the filmmaker that he is, DaSilva decided to make a movie about it.
Jason DaSilva's When I Walk, an Official Selection of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, will have its national broadcast premiereonPBS (check local listings) on Monday, June 23, 2014, kicking off the 27th season of POV (Point of View), American television's longest-running independent documentary series. POV is the winner of a 2013 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. The film will stream on POV's website, www.pbs.org/pov/wheniwalk/, from June 24-July 23, 2014.
Watch trailer below:
Given the mysteries surrounding multiple sclerosis, or MSincluding its causes and the course it will take in any individualDaSilva couldn't have known what he was getting into. Using animation, he illustrates what he learned, that MS causes the body's immune system to attack nerve endings in the brain and spinal cord. The results can include loss of vision, muscle control and balance. The animation has a surprisingly comic edge, and in the early stages of the disease, he is amazingly buoyant and positive.
When the filmmaker's mother, Marianne D'Souza, enters the film, it's clear that her son's fighting spirit was inherited from her. He's beginning to struggle, but she upbraids himin a tough, loving manner that reflects her roots in India. She challenges him to finish the film he's started, wants to know why he's "whining and sighing all the time" and tells him, "Things are tough. . . . Get real . . . you molly-coddled North American kid!" Throughout her tirade, DaSilva can't stop grinning. As he says, "When all else fails, there's Mom."
In the span of five years, the once-vigorous, well-built young man goes from walking on wobbly legs to using a cane then a walker then a wheelchair and then a scooter.
He fights back in every way he can. In the beginning, he spends hours at the gym. He undergoes an experimental procedure that benefits him little. He goes to his ancestral India to make a fiction film, but is unable to finish. While there, he tries traditional medicine and spirituality. He visits an old uncle to ask whether the uncle remembers anyone else in the family with such a disease. An aunt on the Catholic side of his family sends him off to Lourdes, France, where he finds no miracle cure.
When DaSilva finally has an emotional breakdown, he bemoans the rapid pace of the disease. Despite his determination to adapt and make the most of what he has, he discovers that his disabilities have intensified so quickly that he barely has time to compensate for one affliction before something worse arrives.