In Crip Camp, the revolution begins at summer time camp. The Netflix documentary, now accessible to stream, follows a number of younger individuals who attended Camp Jened, a New York campground for folks with disabilities. That alone is an excellent topic: a narrative about what occurs when a gaggle of teenagers uncared for by society lastly discovers a spot the place they’re handled as full, entire folks. However Crip Camp goes someplace unbelievable, and a narrative about how a camp modified a gaggle of youngsters’ lives turns into a narrative about how the nation was modified for the higher.
Directed by Nicole Newnham and Jim Lebrecht — the latter attended Camp Jened, and his story serves as one in all Crip Camp’s focal factors — the movie begins in 1971 with Lebrecht and others attending the camp for the primary time. Remarkably, the folks at Camp Jened had a digicam operating and frequently interviewed the campers about every part: how they’re handled by the surface world, the privateness they lengthy for that they aren’t afforded, the crushes they’ve. That is juxtaposed with present-day interview footage the place attendees additionally replicate on that point in a spot the place they spoke with their very own voices about their very own needs and have been listened to.
Nonetheless, Camp Jened is simply half the story, as Crip Camp follows Lebrecht and his fellow campers again into the true world the place, radicalized by the compassion of their expertise, they change into the activists that turned integral within the incapacity rights motion. The documentary culminates with their participation in 1977’s 504 Sit-In, a protest that led to vital adjustments within the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, a precursor to the modern-day Individuals with Disabilities Act. (The problem of a sit-in by folks with disabilities isn’t glossed over.)
Calling Crip Camp a feel-good film feels opposite to its goal, at the same time as it’s tremendously inspiring. It’s extra of a reminder that one thing that appears inconceivable will be achieved; it simply takes an immense, downright unfair quantity of labor to will it into existence and help from others who will not be impacted however profit from a extra equitable society as a result of everybody does. In a single memorable anecdote, the Black Panthers arrive through the 26-day 504 Sit-In to supply meals to the protestors without charge, merely out of solidarity. In one other, one lawmaker refused to hearken to protestors’ considerations throughout a listening to, locking himself in his workplace till he was pressured to return.
The issue, as one of many movie’s few non-disabled interviewees notes, isn’t with folks dwelling with disabilities, however folks with out them — individuals who refuse to hearken to these with disabilities or construct a world that accommodates them, who flip a blind eye to their abuse, or restrict their alternatives. The revolution is for the ablest world the bulk made, and it’s merciless that altering it requires a lot from those that are already susceptible, whereas these indirectly affected usually simply look on.
Crip Camp is refreshingly sincere concerning the social change it chronicles, noting that legal guidelines are ceaselessly undercut and solely stay efficient so long as the populace is vigilant. It’s a message that appears like a significant one throughout our present second of socioeconomic upheaval the place practically each marginalized group feels underneath assault ultimately, and what little authorized protections every had are unceremoniously stripped away on a weekly foundation.
However a significant cause why any of Crip Camp’s big-picture scope works in any respect is as a result of it’s so heat and ebullient in its first half, letting the younger women and men who discovered their strategy to the now-closed Camp Jened — lots of whom are not dwelling — communicate for themselves. It lets them discuss being someplace they have been anticipated to play ball as a substitute of sitting the sport out, the place they have been capable of discuss regular teen issues like being sexy, and higher perceive the cracks within the exterior world that threaten to swallow them up. It reveals what can occur whenever you lastly are in a room of individuals like your self who share your struggles and are given the room to inform one another the reality and the liberty to dream of doing one thing about it.