SLAMDANCE 2021 – There is a lot to take into consideration when writing about, speaking about, or learning about disabled rights. I myself am disabled and prefer identifier-first language (disabled person, not “person with disabilities”). I’d imagine some people reading this didn’t even know that alone is a hot topic people from different walks of life have different opinions on. It’s easy to get it wrong, but it’s crucial to keep trying and keep learning. Even as someone in the community, I get it wrong. I say this as I share this review with you–because I want to open the dialogue, the way The Co-Op does.
The Co-Op was a personal passion project for writer and director Cameron S. Mitchell. His sister and father are both disabled (and cast in the film). The Co-Op began as a 2017 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge 72 hour film festival entry and has quickly made the rounds as a festival darling. Rightly so–The Co-Op is a vital and too often silenced commentary on disability in film. On many occasions characteristics of people with disabilities–a wheelchair, a brain tumor, “multiple personalities”–are used as a villain’s modus operandi to add supposed pathos and reasoning to a protagonist. Don’t you think all that really does is villainize disabilities in our minds? Have you ever noticed how rare it is for a hero to be in a disabled body? These are simple questions, with simple answers–and The Co-Op tackles them with grace.
The Co-Op also boldly goes where Hollywood fears to tread and casts actual disabled actors. Too often the Hollywood machine sees disabled performers as a liability and where the stage world has begun to take risks, the film world is drastically behind. Able-bodied performers too often mock disabled bodies and take roles out from under deserving and remarkable performers who get overlooked due to their handicaps. What The Co-Op may lack in cinematic polish it makes up for in heart and message, and it is bound to win hearts and change minds all over the world.
The Co-Op is currently playing at Slamdance 2021.
6 out of 10