Communication is often taken for granted, but it is what 13-year-old Alexis Runyan and four-year-old Oliver Chatterjee struggle with every day. Both children are nonverbal and cannot sign with their hands due to disorders that create a lack of muscle control. The documentary Expressions of Hope gives a voice to these two children struggling to find their own. The film will follow the children as they learn how to use various forms of assistive technology and modes of communication. The shared long-term goal for both children is to communicate with others without heavy facilitation.
For more information on the documentary topic read “The Essence of Life,” a research paper written by Stephanie Khoury. Please be patient with the loading time. The file is large because of all the photos included in the article.
Besides the technical components I learned from doing this documentary, the actual subject and the people I filmed taught me so much as well. Tina Caswell taught me the importance of compassion and determination. Oliver taught me to never underestimate others or myself. Alexis and her parents taught me to always look for the light in every situation and to remember the importance of humor. And researching this subject of alternative communication has reminded me to appreciate my ability to speak, sing, write, and walk, because not everyone has these little things that so many people take for granted.
The documentary has:
- received funding from the James B. Pendelton Student Research and Production Grant,
- won the Imprint Magazine Contest,
- been accepted into the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival,
- been accepted into the CSWE 2013 Virtual Film Festival
- aired on WCNY
- won the Loreen Arbus Focus on Disability Scholarship at the College Television Awards
The documentary was highly collaborative and would not have achieved such success without the contributions of the many individuals involved. I was the only student working on the video for class. The group came together out of pure interest in the topic and eagerness to make the film a success. Karlem Sivira (the co-director) and Stephanie Khoury (researcher) both contributed mass amounts of time and joined me in LA for the College Television Awards. The collaboration of the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology and Park School students is one I hope will be a precedent for many more interdisciplinary endeavors to come.
College Television Awards:
The College Television Awards is a renowned national competition recognizing excellence in college student-produced video, digital and film work. Each year, hundreds of colleges and universities nationwide submit entries. As with the Primetime Emmy® Awards, entries are awarded based on excellence in overall production. Expressions of Hope was selected as the winner of the Loreen Arbus Focus on Disability Scholarship which was launched in 2009 to recognize student filmmakers who shed light on people with disabilities.
View a brief statement I made after receiving the award.