The documentary We are peopleinitiated by Michaël Jéremiasz, tells how physical activity has been a powerful tool in improving the fitness of people with disabilities.
15% of people in the world have a disability. However, access to health, work, culture, housing or sport is still difficult for them. Michaël Jéremiasz, Paralympic wheelchair tennis champion in Beijing, paralyzed after a skiing accident at the age of 18, observes this daily. “Even though I have a great life, I am the victim of ordinary discrimination: a glance, a taxi you refuse to take, a baker who has two steps in front of his shop, I want to have the freedom of my choices…”, he confides. He made it his fight.
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Together with his friend the director Philippe Fontana, he wondered what role sport could have played in the acceptance of disabilities in society. “We have often wondered what the power of sport is, way beyond the high level, and we wanted to give it back its noble letters”, he continues. For several months, the two traveled the world exploring and meeting those who, through their journey, their will and their courage, have helped to change the mindset and the way we look at difference.
Thanks to stunning archival footage as well as strong and powerful testimonials, We are people (which literally means We are men like everyone else) and broadcast on Sunday 26 June on Canal +, it tells 150 years of history little known to the general public, combining sport and disability and thus shedding light on the evolution of society. “We realized that sport is an extremely powerful tool in the history of the plight of people with disabilities to access rights, to health…eventually to citizenship”says Michael Jéremiasz.
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This is how we discover the revolutionary impact that Dr. Ludwig Guttmann, an English physician of German descent, was involved in the care of people with spinal cord injuries (injury to the spinal cord) during World War II. Thanks to the implementation of a rehabilitation protocol based on physical exercises – still relevant today – it caused a drastic decrease in mortality, at the time very high for people with disabilities. † He also launched the Stoke Mandeville Games, sports competitions for the paralyzed and ancestor of the Paralympic Games. The film also highlights the struggles of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who has devoted her entire life to various children and in particular to the mentally handicapped.
Michaël Jéremiasz also met some of the greatest Paralympic champions in history, such as American basketball player David Kiley or Canadian athlete Chantal Petitclerc, now Senator, who look back on their sports career, but also on the way they saw their accident and then their disability. The French tennis player also does not shy away from the question and tells about his personal story, the real thread of the documentary. With children’s films or photos, he follows the path that was his path with his pain, his resilience and his daily struggle: “I put my small story at the service of the big one, so that people can identify more. Even though I am a Paralympic champion, I’ve had the same stories with my loved ones, I know what it cost me, I’ve had the same fears, the same concerns and the same questions. The idea is that anyone can own this universal story.†
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A way to change mindset
The former wheelchair tennis player knows that this documentary can impress and change things. “We don’t know this history mixing sport and disability, or, more generally, the contemporary history of people with disabilities”notes Michael Jéremiasz. The idea is not to be moralistic or critical, but actually to explain reality and then be able to tell ourselves that we collectively have the capacity to change the situation. We hope this documentary will nurture some reflections and understanding on these topics for living in societies that no longer discriminate. I believe it”† The film will have a worldwide distribution as it will be distributed in Europe, in Africa and in all the countries where it was made, be it in the United States, Canada, Switzerland, Ivory Coast and Italy. It will soon become clear again on Canal+ and should then be broadcast on France Télévisions.
In his fight against injustice, Michaël Jéremiasz does not want to stop there. This first major documentary, produced by Les gros films, a company he co-founded with Philippe Fontana, asks for many others. “with Philip, we want to make impactful, useful films that highlight discriminated populations or minorities. In short, to make our contribution to a better world. Nothing is more satisfying than being useful to someone else. It is my hope that this documentary will give thousands of people the keys to grasping their neighbor in a healthier, more serene and just way.
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