JUST AS I AM: A Musical Testimony to Togetherness

Stunning Documentary on Montreal’s SHIRA CHOIR to Premiere on September 23

Thursday, September 23 @ 7PM

The Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue
  CBC Gem Screening Launch on Friday, September 24
CBC Television Debut on Saturday, September 25 @ 7PM

MONTREAL | September 2, 2021 – Acclaimed filmmaker Evan Beloff (Kosher Love, Once a Nazi…, Too Colourful for the League: A History of Blacks in Hockey) and producer Marvin Rosenblatt (A People’s Soundtrack) are pleased to unveil their latest collaboration: Just As I Am. A little film with a great big heart, the feature-length documentary follows the lives of several members of the Shira Choir, comprised of an exceptional group of singers with special needs, and the choirmaster that unites them, in a touching journey through sorrow and joy, life and death—during a global pandemic.

Just As I Am will have its World Premiere on Thursday, September 23 at the Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue in Montreal, alongside a performance by the Shira Choir and a Q&A with Daniel Benlolo (Choirmaster / Cantor), Evan Beloff (Director) and Marvin Rosenblatt (Executive Producer). This free public screening will take place ahead of the film’s streaming launch on CBC Gem (Friday, September 24) and its small-screen debut on CBC Television (Saturday, September 25 at 7 p.m.)

Thursday, September 23

The Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue
(4894 Saint-Kevin, Montreal, QC, H3W 1P2)
  7:00 PM → Doors Open 7:30 PM → Performance by the Shira Choir 8:00 PM → Welcome + Film Screening 9:00 PM → Q&A with Daniel Benlolo (Choirmaster), Evan Beloff (Director), Marvin Rosenblatt (Executive Producer) and Shira Choir members 9:30 PM → Refreshments
Complete details, free public registration & vaccine passport/COVID regulations:

“Singing releases some of the daily stress that people go through. It has given me another form of escape and a creative outlet. Members are treated with respect and dignity, as they should be, instead of being talked down to, as other people do to those who have a disability, whether it is visible or invisible.”Amanda Cape (Member, Shira Choir)

Just As I Am is a documentary that explores an exceptional group of singers who happen to all be adults living with special needs and the choirmaster that unites them. Formed just before the pandemic, the Montreal-based Shira Choir was forced to cancel concerts and regular rehearsals, until choirmaster Daniel Benlolo and his volunteers decided to bring members and their families to weekly rehearsals online.

What unfolds is an extraordinary testament to perseverance and musical unity as they all share their weekly fears, hopes, songs and dreams. Just As I Am also offers intimate snapshots into the lives of the choir members, as they deal with their own set of intellectual and physical challenges during a time of great uncertainty and upheaval in the world. It highlights choirmaster Daniel Benlolo and his unique and charismatic vision for enabling members with special needs to fully participate in society and to feel a sense of communal belonging and enhanced self-esteem.

The documentary strives throughout to break down barriers imposed by the pandemic, but also barriers that exist in the manner we perceive people living with a disability, and spotlights the lack of outreach resources required to help them as adults – especially in a time when it is needed most. With great heart, Just As I Am is a musical testimony to togetherness, dispelling stereotypes and raising up the underappreciated among us.