This short film captures a young girl’s love for her brother, who has cerebral palsy.
My daughter Emma was just 3 when Teddy was born, with a viral infection he contracted in utero that caused extensive brain damage. This short film captures her love for Teddy, one not weighted down by disappointment, sadness or a full understanding of all the ways in which he wasn’t “normal.”
This Op-Doc is adapted from a longer work, “Softening,” I made about our experience of raising a child with severe physical and developmental disabilities. Created over the span of five years, that film captures moments, memories and reflections from our everyday lives. In an impressionistic way, it documents our challenges, changes and celebrations. It began as a film about my relationship with Teddy, but became a film about my family and all of our evolving relationships with him.
While I spent those first few years longing for what Teddy wasn’t, my husband, Terence, was able to appreciate him for who he was. As both mother and filmmaker, I felt it was important to find ways to represent Teddy not simply as a tragedy or a constellation of delays and disabilities, but as the sweet, happy and complicated kid that he is.
Emma’s connection with Teddy reveals this perfectly.
Emma just turned 10. Teddy is now 7 and attends a wonderful school for children with special needs in Toronto. They are both works in progress and we get only a glimpse each day of what their future holds. We’ll all continue to struggle with Teddy’s cerebral palsy, but this film isn’t about that. It’s about the things that make the struggle worthwhile.
Kelly O’Brien is an independent filmmaker and mother of three who lives in Toronto. Her film “Softening,” from which this Op-Doc is adapted, won the grand jury prize in the shorts competition at the 2013 DOC NYC festival.
Op-Docs is a forum for short, opinionated documentaries, produced with creative latitude by independent filmmakers and artists. Learn more about Op-Docs and how to submit to the series.