HOW'S YOUR NEWS?: Bhakti Film Review
A couple of weeks ago, Netflix recommended a documentary film that I was unfamiliar with. The cover of the DVD had a shooting star coming out of it; that meant that it was not only recommended, it was highly recommended. The title of the film was How’s Your News. The Netflix write-up said “this film, a favorite on the festival circuit, dispels the notion that disability limits opportunities and choices by showing just how the quintet, who cruised the country in an RV, knocks down myths with plenty of humor and heaps of grace.”
I put the movie at the top of my queue--meaning it would be the next movie I'd receive from Netflix--based on two things: 1) the fact that Netflix said that this film ‘knocked down myths’ about disabled peoples’ abilities; and 2) the fact that I am 100% disabled and wanted to see this cast of five people with various disabilities ‘knock down’ these myths.
The DVD arrived in about a week. I put it on and waited enthusiastically through previews for the film to begin. I was astonished—not in a pleasant way—when the music began playing over the MENU screen. I couldn’t believe my ears. I thought to myself, What is this? Is this a mockery of disabled, mentally challenged people? Who in their right mind would put this person’s voice on the menu screen? It got worse. The opening scene introduced the cast: two of whom can’t even talk! Who in GOD’S name would include two people who can’t even talk to go across country to report the news?
I was so angry I stopped watching the film and put it back in the Netflix holder with the intent of throwing it in the mailbox the following day.
Later that night, I told my mother about the film and my reaction to it. She said, “Oh, I think you should watch the rest of it. I bet there’s a bright side to it that you just haven’t seen yet. I really think you should give it another chance.”
Thank god I listened to my mom’s advice (I’ve learned to ALWAYS listen to her advice. She is ALWAYS right—without fail. If I had listened to her and not ridden the bicycle in New York City like she asked, it's likely I wouldn’t be 100% disabled right now.) I watched the rest of the film the following day and realized that part of my initial disliking of the film was due to the fact that I was watching it while experiencing high levels of pain; so high that by nighttime I had literally thrown up from the pain-induced nauseau. My patience was slim; such intense pain tends to close this usually open mind of mine. Nevertheless, by the end of the movie I had tears in my eyes (beware—last scene end spoiler coming up!), especially when Susan began running full-speed into the water. I was sitting in my bedroom--all by my lonesome-- clapping my hands and saying yes! they made it!
In my opinion, How’s Your News ? did not, as Netflix attests, “knock down” any myths regarding disabled people. Netflix’s statement implies that the five disabled cast members pulled off anchoring the news with the agility and deftness of a dime-a-dozen network news anchor; thus "knocking down the myth" that it could never be done. How’s Your News? doesn’t pull that off, but the important thing to note—and the point that Netflix missed altogether—is that How’s Your News? probably didn’t set out to knock down any myths, especially that disabled people can’t present the news like your average network anchor. How’s Your News? made it totally okay for disabled people to take a cross country trip, report the news that they felt was important enough to be reported, and present it to the general public with no reservations. That is totally different than dispelling myths. I also think it is a far greater achievement. The film makers went beyond dispelling myths; they broke new ground.
The great thing about How’s Your News? is that it doesn’t coddle the general public. It doesn’t make any excuses whatsoever with regard to how ‘difficult’ it might be (for the public at large) to watch Larry try to get a word out while conducting an interview—if anyone actually stops to be interviewed him at all; and doesn’t have any problem showing Robert for who he is—a grown man who understands everything that is said to him; who appreciates social interaction, but who does not have the ability to talk in the ‘normal’ sense of the word.
Not only did I give the film 5-stars when I rated it and wrote a review on Netflix, but I also contend that How’s Your News? has the best Special Features of any DVD I have ever rented or bought. I read a review on Amazon.com where the viewer said that the film never showed you any insight into the five main cast members. Quite obviously, this person did not watch the Special Features, of which I list below:
*Commentary by: the entire castUnknown Format
*The original pilot
*Foogate of festival appearances and Q&As with the cast after screenings in Toronto, New York, L.A., and Amsterdam
*IFC's vanguard show, Split Screen, goes behind the scenes at HYN?
*NPR's This American Life talks to director Arthur Bradford and to reporters Ron Simonsen and Sue Harrington
*Reporter Ron Simonsen interviews actor Chad Everett
*An interview with Matt Stone and Trey Parker conducted by the HYN? reporters
I highly recommend this movie. I will end my review here because, quite honestly, I could go on forever singing the praises of this film. In closing, I would like to say thank you to Arthur Bradford for making such a lovely film, and I trust that he may have a better understanding of how someone could initially find this film exploitative towards its stars; I certainly hope he understands that his (and the other crew members) selflessness changed my mind.
Click on following link for the How’s Your News? website:
ABOUT HOW’S YOUR NEWS
tags: Jaibhakti, bhakti, bhakti+brophy, How's Your News?, Arthur Bradford, Bhakti Film Review, people with disabilities, overcoming disabilities