On the Wings of a Word

I’ll admit it – whenever I hear someone using computerized voicebox to speak, a la Stephen Hawking, I think of how terrible it must be to work so hard simply to speak.  But that is an extremely over-privileged reaction.  Imagine instead how liberating that voicebox must be to the user;  to finally be able to complete a sentence that can be understood by others, to communicate, to order an ice cream cone!

Alan Martin expresses his delight in receiving a computerized voicebox in the short film THIS CHAIR IS NOT ME, playing as part of Silverdocs Shorts Program #2.  In fact, it’s an ill-fated attempt by Alan to buy a snack one afternoon that made propels his pursuit of a vocalizer.  Director Andy Taylor Smith has crafted a remarkably stylized short around Alan’s story.

Confined to a wheelchair by extreme cerebral palsy, Alan finds it nearly impossible to speak.  The purchase of his vocalizer, aptly named The Liberator, allows him to communicate and enables him to venture forth from his house to pursue a richer life for himself.  The viewer will be surprised to see just how far he gets.

THIS CHAIR IS NOT ME uses an amazingly rich visual vocabulary to illustrate Alan’s captivity without his speech, and the joy and freedom that the computerized voice provides. It is narrated by Alan, who’s enthusiasm breathes life into his computerized voice.  I have a new respect for those who benefit from – not rely upon – technology to get through their day.  In addition, I have a new appreciation for the simple pleasure, and privilege, of ordering an ice cream cone.

You can read a Q&A with the director, Andy Taylor Smith (at the bottom of the page, click on the “extras” tab).  THIS CHAIR IS NOT ME screens for FREE, as part of Shorts Program #2, on Thurs, June 24, at noon and again Wed, June 23, at 10:00pm.

DARKNESS OF DAY, THE | Jay Rosenblatt 2009
HOLDING STILL | Florian Riegel 2010
THIS CHAIR IS NOT ME | Andy Taylor Smith 2010

–Matthew Radcliff is a member of the Silverdocs screening committee and the organizer of the WIFV Documentary Roundtable.


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