Friday, October 10, 2014

Profiles on Wheels: Jason DaSilva

 Last month in my Netflix roundup, I mentioned the  2013 Jason DaSilva documentary When I Walk. As you may remember by its Kimmie-imposed A grade, I really enjoyed it and found it to be a very compelling story of how the course of a life was altered with a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. If you haven't had a chance to watch the movie yet, I highly recommend it.  

When I Walk is now streaming on Netflix and if you haven't yet succumbed to the allure of that subscription service, fear not- it is free on PBS POV by clicking here.

Of course, not unlike most things I really enjoy, I wanted to know more about Jason and his projects almost immediately after credits rolled.  I had a lot of questions, and since we are very loose acquaintances bound by the governing body of social media, I thought I should reach out for an interview...and gladly, he obliged.

As ya'll know, I watch a lot of documentaries just for fun and knowledge and have always wondered how it feels to make a movie all about yourself? Is that weird? Does it feel self-indulgent? When would I get the chance to find out, so of course I asked.  Jason, who seems like a fairly humble gent agreed with me that it was an odd feeling to be both the film maker and the subject. "I think I felt a little self-involved, but on the flip side, the thing that made me feel better about it was that I was making something people could identify with. There was the added layer of MS, so it wasn't just about me."

He also got to use the camera to capture things that most people would love to have on for example Jason can forever watch over and over his first date with his now wife, Alice.  He told me that moment is probably the thing he is happiest to have in the movie. There are other moments that were harder to make, like before he met his wife, when he was first coming to terms with life with a disability. Jason also concluded that having the cameras around made him face some of those honest and hard to have conversations with Alice early in their courtship. "Oh, especially those early conversations on film."

Another portion of the film that stuck with me was his pilgrimage to Lourdes after diagnosis. Being semi-Catholic, I have heard about this holy place since first communion, so I wanted to know the impact it had. "I guess the takeaway was that a lot of people are given their own challenges. There may not be a cure, but there can be hope." I asked him if he had any fun faith healing stories, but he said in NYC, that it is clearly not as big an epidemic as it is in the Bible belt.

Another thing you should know about Jason, that you'd know if you'd watched the film (GET ON IT!), is that he is behind an amazing service online called AXS Maps where you can type in your own city (or one you are visiting) to find out if the place you want to go serves your accessibility needs. It's all user based content, so the more people that use it- the better it is.

In our brief conversation I learned that in all about the new changes to AXS Maps, which include the incredibly clever Mapathon feature, which allows a group of people to divide and conquer to check in accessible and inaccessible places in their neighborhood. The feature makes it a competition and it can even be a way to fund raise for charity of your choosing. What a brilliant way to do good while...umm...doing good.

Of course while I had him on the phone, I asked him for any good movie recommendations. [Tangent: Isn't "seen any good films lately?" what you ask filmmakers? I never claimed to be an ace interviewer.]  He volunteered, "a great documentary not a lot of people have seen is called Tarnation and centers around a man and his relationship with his mother who has mental illness." I definitely have now added this to my to-see list along with Jason's latest project which will similarly focus on the father/son relationship, when the son has a disability.

Thanks Jason for allowing me to pick your brain!

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