CRIP CAMP – Review by Susan Granger

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Starting on Wednesday (March 25) on Netflix, there’s an exuberant, uplifting documentary, Crip Camp, this year’s Sundance Audience Award-winner.

In 1971, when theatrical/film sound designer Jim LeBrecht was 15, he spent an extraordinary summer at an experimental camp for disabled kids. After sharing his memories with Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Nicole Newnham, they decided to make a movie.

Of course, they had no idea that final funding would come from Higher Ground, the production company run by Barack and Michelle Obama.

In upstate New York, Camp Jened claims to be the birthplace of the disability-rights movement. When Jim LeBrecht, born with spina bifida, embarked on the three-hour bus trip into the Catskills, he knew that it was a place for children with disabilities – and it was run by hippies.

Founded by Larry Allison, the ramshackle, countercultural camp welcomed kids with varying levels of mobility, communication and socialization. Counselors like Judy Heumann juggled the polio-stricken with those afflicted with cerebral palsy; years later, she co-organized the 28-day San Francisco 504 occupation.

“We were still in the Age of Aquarius, seeing all these different liberation movements going around,” recalls Jim LeBrecht. “We would talk about the world around us. Conversations would start about our liberation, what we can’t do and why, asking: what can we do about it?”

Filled with inspiring interviews and remarkable archival footage (filmed by the People’s Video Theater), it’s a glimpse into another world. Like other teens, these campers enjoy hanging out, listening to music, falling in love and smoking pot.

Entering college, many campers became committed activists, participating in the protests that helped advance accessibility and anti-discrimination laws for Americans with disabilities.

In Road Map for Inclusion, a 2019 report on disability-in-media, Judy Heumann wrote: “It is no longer acceptable to not have women at the table. It is no longer acceptable to not have people of color at the table. But no one thinks to see if the table is accessible.”

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Crip Camp is an inspiring 8, sparking a revolution.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.