Amy saw a movie in Woodstock
I kicked off my jaunt at the Woodstock Film Festival in Woodstock, NY with a special screening of the feature documentary, For the Love Of Julian, directed by Meira Blaustein and narrated by Susan Sarandon. Per Amazon.com, it is “an inspired and personal documentary about multiply handicapped medically fragile children. At once impassioned and unsentimental, For Love of Julian is a recognition of the humanity in these children, and a plea for the rest of us to honor and nurture humanity in all its myriad forms.”
Even though I hesitated watching such a heavy film at 10am on a Saturday morning, I couldn’t help but be intrigued and not allow myself to pass up the chance of seeing a great-sounding doc right across the street from where I was staying in town.
After seeing the film, I was moved by its raw honesty and emotional intensity but more so by the fact that it asked questions I wanted to hear pondered by filmmakers covering such a topic. Is it ethical to keep a child alive when basic tools of survival such as eating and breathing obviously pained him? How can you not help your child when every fiber of your parental being urges you to?
I loved the elements of the film where a roundtable of mothers shared their emotional turmoil with their handicapped children, and the follow through to see how Julian grew up, got an education and positively affected his caretakers was phenomenal. It was well edited and quite simply surprised me in its ability to thoughtfully explore what I assume is a frightening and taboo subject matter.
Meira, also a co-founder of the Woodstock Film Festival, attended the screening as the film was inspiration for WFF. It was also in response to Julian’s recent passing. He was eighteen years old.
Q: At what point did you decide to make this film?
A: When Julian was 2 years old, Meira went away for 8 days and that gave her perspective. She needed to change things because it was all too much, so upon returning she began the adoption process but found it was impossible to follow through. That was the catalyst.
Q: Where can we get a copy of the film?
A: You can find it at Amazon.
Q: What facilitated the Mother’s Support Group (or roundtable) featured in the film?
A: Meira assembled it for purposes of the film.
Q: In the 1990s, when Julian was young, was there help or support for multiply handicapped children?
A: There was a system that helped children and parents, but it was not yet enough. There were a lot of residential schools around, but only two were that good. Meira went away again when Julian was 4 and decided to move him to a facility where Julian was accepted off the waiting list when a bed freed up. This school was featured in the film.
Q: How has technology impacted these kids since the 80s and 90s? (A lot of technology was utilized in educating children in the film).
A: The Discovery Center pushed for advances in technology as it was crucial in getting through to these kids and improving their quality of life.
The producer of the film surprised Meira and the audience by attending and saying that Meira was the one who inspired the film and Julian. She said, Meira never stopped. Everyone learned what life is. She questioned our values and though Julian was the impetus, Meira was the driving force.
Q: What was her experience (in film) that informed the film’s production?
A: Meira had done some shorts and documentaries, but none had the meaning that this one had.
Q: How did the film inspire Woodstock Film Festival?
A: All the people who helped with film are from the area and still around to put on the festival.
Miera closed with saying that there’s no one answer in how to cope with these kinds of children. Meira grappled with the ethical question of keeping Julian’s life. She thought during every moment of every day, “why?” But the power of these children is in what they give to others. Julian was not given a chance—his fate was in the cards before birth. But what he gave to others was more than life, but meaning in life.