A Heartwarming and Inspiring Revolution
Back in the early 70’s, a wave of change swept the United States, with its origins starting in the humble summer camp of Camp Jened. Netflix’s latest documentary film Crip Camp is a thought provoking, eye-opening examination of the disability right’s movement that picked up momentum and changed the very world as we see it today. It seems almost unfathomable now to imagine a time where ramps, wheelchair accessible areas and lifts weren’t the norm but back in the 70’s, a cultural movement, helped by the changing attitudes brought on by societal issues at the time, brought with it a revolution that continues to move forward.
Crip Camp is a bit of a slow burn but if you can persevere with its story, the film rewards you with a solid hour of inspiration. The first 40 minutes or so tackles Camp Jened itself, a summer camp designed specifically for those with disabilities. With numerous kids feeling empowered and allowed to act like themselves rather than hiding their own disabilities, their experience from this summer camp essentially acts as a foundation for what follows from there.
It’s at this point the film takes on an alternate persona, as the early facade of this feel-good summer camp is replaced by an awakening hunger for these boys and girls to change the world around them. What follows is a cultural movement that rises all the way up the chain of command to those at the very top, pressured into signing amendments and laws thanks to several peaceful protests. All of this culminates in a beautiful tribute at the end, remembering those who sacrificed so much for equality.
While the opening act is a little slow, the rest of the film follows a far more consistent pacing that settles into a good rhythm around the midway point. There’s a lot of archival footage, including photos and video from the time, along with a few added sound effects for good measure. The talking head segments are interesting, with a lot of the campers interviewed and given time to get their points across.
Stylistically, the film doesn’t do an awful lot differently compared to other documentary films although the expository text and hand-drawn segments to show many days have passed are a welcome addition and certainly help give this some personality.
Crip Camp does a wonderful job depicting the attitude and behaviours of the time, combined with a whole smattering of big personalities interviewed and given the time to get their points across. Respectful, involving and incredibly inspiring, Crip Camp is a beautifully written film and aside from the opening act being a bit of a slow burn, this film is a must-watch and one of the best documentaries of the year.