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As movie buffs focus on the Academy Awards, discussions always turn to what makes a film “important.” Films of importance take us beyond ourselves and delve into worlds that teach us and strive to draw awareness to an issue or the plight of a people, all the while entertaining us with an engaging plotline.

A few months ago, I held a personal film fest of movies that deal with intellectual, emotional, and physical disabilities. Following is a “Top 10” list of important movies about disabilities based on a self-created formula: First, the movie has to be inspirational; second, the person with the disability has to be empowered and play a main role in his or her own resilience; and third, the movie must sustain audience interest with a strong art form.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is told from the perspective of stroke victim Jean-Dominique Bauby as he emerges from a coma and is unable to communicate with anyone despite his ability to understand those talking to him. By blinking his one functioning eye, Bauby writes a book about his “locked-in syndrome.” (Miramax)

My Left Foot recounts the life of Christy Brown, an Irish boy born with cerebral palsy. Though he can only control the movement of his left foot, he grows up to become a writer and an artist. (Miramax)

The Soloist tells the story of a homeless man named Nathaniel Ayers, a musical prodigy who develops schizophrenia while at the Juilliard School, and the journalist who befriends him. (Dreamworks)

A Beautiful Mind is the life story of Nobel Prize-winning professor John Nash, a genius who lives with paranoid schizophrenia. (Universal)

Children of a Lesser God depicts a deaf woman who, with help from her teacher, learns to speak. (Paramount)

Radio reveals the wonderful friendship between a high school football coach and a mentally challenged young man. (Sony)

Who Are the DeBolts? (And Where Did they Get 19 Kids?) introduces Dorothy and Bob DeBolt, an American couple who adopted 14 children, many of whom are severely disabled war orphans. (New Video Group)

Murderball documents quadriplegic athletes preparing for the wheelchair rugby championships at the 2004 Paralympic Games. (Velocity)

i am sam is the story of a father with the mental capacity of a 7-year-old who receives sole guardianship of his 6-year-old daughter after his wife leaves him. (New Line)

The Other Sister is about the romance between Carla Tate and Daniel McMahon—both with intellectual disabilities—and the challenges they face in their relationship. (Walt Disney)

If you know of other films that should be on this list, I’d love to hear from you. I can be reached by email at

Live at the Mauch Chunk Opera House

by The Wailin’ Jennys
reviewed by Otto Selles

Exquisite, vibrant, or perhaps stupendous . . . it’s hard to pick an adjective that adequately describes the harmonies sung by the Winnipeg-based The Wailin’ Jennys. On this live album, Ruth Moody and Nicky Mehta, the group’s Canadian founders, are joined by American Heather Masse to perform a mix of traditional folk and gospel songs, covers of country and pop tunes, and original work (including the signature tune “One Voice”). (Red House Records)

Except for Six

reviewed by Kristy Quist

Ron Christie, who is dying of cancer, opens his home, his life, and his death to viewers in this documentary produced by Hospice of Michigan. Viewers are exposed to the issues that face any family as they experience the dying process of a loved one. As his cancer progresses, Ron is by turns lighthearted, angry, hopeful, and scared. While not presented from a religious point of view, this film would be a great opportunity for a small group or family discussion about end-of-life issues. To find out more, go to (Compass Outreach Media)

Shop Class as Soulcraft

by Matthew B. Crawford
reviewed by Otto Selles

Our emphasis on training “knowledge workers” has created a generation of college graduates stuck in dead-end jobs and lacking the practical skills to fix anything. So argues Crawford, who completed a Ph.D. in philosophy but gave up white-collar jobs to work as a motorbike mechanic. Fulfillment and happiness, he feels, can be found in the intellectual challenges and obvious results manual work provides. While often too academic in style, and a bit crude, this book provides much food for thought—and action. (Penguin Press)

The Day of the Pelican

by Katherine Paterson
reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema

In 1998, 13-year-old Meli Lleshi and her family, who are Muslim Albanians living in Kosovo, flee their Serbian oppressors. They become refugees and are eventually sponsored by a church in Vermont. Baba, Meli’s father, teaches his children that “hate makes no sense.” As Meli witnesses atrocities in her homeland, on the run, and in America, she struggles to fight her growing hatred. Paterson’s informative, sensitive novel deals in an age-appropriate manner with the violence war inflicts on millions of children. Ages 9-12. (Clarion)

The Lowdown

On the Run: Runners on the go can visit to, well, map their runs at home or out of town. Also available: map my ride, hike, tri, or mountain.

Author, Author: Look for new books from readers’ favorites: Solar by Ian McEwan (Nan A. Talese), House Rules by Jodi Picoult (Atria), and Her Mother’s Hope by Francine Rivers (Tyndale).

A Little More Heart: This month young songstress Francesca Battistelli releases a deluxe version of her hit debut album My Paper Heart, with six new songs.

A Little Less Water: March 22 is World Water Day. Observe the day by viewing the alarming documentary FLOW (Oscilloscope Pictures) regarding the state of our world’s water supply, or you may just prefer to curb your bottled water habit.

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