Straighten Up and Fly Right @ Bentonville Film Festival

American filmmakers Kristen Abate (first film) and Steven Tanenbaum (How to Score Your Life) have made a film filled with humanity and authenticity and also sheds light on a disease you don’t come across every day, but makes those suffering from it shoulder a heavy burden.

Living in New York City is twentysomething Kristen (Kristen Abate – Pre, Blueberry), who has Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS). It is an inflammatory disease of the spine which causes vertebrae to fuse ]]] not allowing those afflicted with it to stand straight. Kristen lives with constant pain and is not very mobile.

Due to AS, her dreams of being a successful writer have fallen by the wayside. Kristen supports herself by dog walking. This is not easy for her as she has trouble picking up the dog poop and neighbourhood kids mock her as she passes by in her hunched-over way.

Things begin to change for Kristen when she begins walking the dogs of two different men. One is Steven (Steven Tanenbaum – How to Score Your Life, Pre), an older man with AS as well, and the other is the younger, for whom she finds herself developing feelings. Steven’s mentoring and her feelings for her handsome client begins to change Kristen’s outlook on life.

No matter who we are or where we find ourselves in life there are lessons which appear and can change our path. They usually give us two choices – to turn away or be willing to learn from them.

A film like this reminds us able-bodied people that even those with disabilities crave human contact, love and friendships. They need meaning in life. That is exactly what is happening throughout this film on several different levels. Like those with disabilities that we either ignore or forget about, this film is a kind of hidden gem. One whose description won’t attract the attention of many, but those who take the time to watch it will be happy they did so as it will give you a new perspective on life and those with disabilities.

The film is filled with wittiness, humour and a warmth you would not expect. There are also some poignant moments involving how people with disabilities are treated, looked at and disregarded.

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