when sport overcomes handicap


More than a billion people have a disability, which is 15% of the world’s population. What if sport was their best vehicle for independence and integration into society? To demonstrate this, Franco-Swiss director Philippe Fontana and multi-medal winner of wheelchair tennis Michaël Jeremiasz have opted for a road movie format documentary, which explores this fascinating and little-known part of disability history – including sports history. The common thread is the own career of Michaël Jeremiasz, who became paralyzed at the age of 19 after a skiing accident.

It was in the deaf community that the pioneers of the movement for access to sports for people with disabilities were found at the end of the 19th century.e century. While sign language was controversial and the hearing impaired were considered “idiots” making “monkey gestures”, French activist Eugène Rubens-Alcais (1884-1963) founded the first deaf-mute cycling club in 1899. silent games were held in the Bois de Vincennes, in Paris, the first international sports competitions for the deaf, as a prelude to the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris.

Also read: “Sourde”, on BrutX: a lively journey to the land of silence

A good dose of humor

From country to country, never miserable, sprinkled with a good dose of humor, the film is going to meet historical actors (or their descendants) in the conquest of sport for all. This includes Eva Loeffler, daughter of Ludwig Guttmann, a German neurologist who changed the life course of spinal cord injuries after the Second World War by letting them play sports. This doctor was at the origin, from 1948, of sports competitions that were considered the first Paralympic Games: the Stoke Mandeville Games, named after the military hospital where he worked, in England.

Through the testimony of Timothy Shriver, president of the Special Olympics (intended for athletes with intellectual disabilities), this committed documentary also highlights the important role played by his mother, Eunice Kennedy, one of the JFK’s sisters. Marked forever by her sister Rosemary’s lobotomy, Eunice Kennedy Shriver has devoted her entire life to people with learning disabilities.

Read also Article reserved for our subscribers “Sport is a great tool for the autonomy of people with disabilities”

Through encounters with champions from all eras and all disciplines, with all kinds of disabilities, we discover beautiful, inspiring stories. And athletes with impressive records such as the Ivorian Koné Oumar, amputated in one arm, the most decorated sportsman in the world (83 trophies), but not really recognized by his country.

Also read: Article reserved for our subscribers Tennis player Michaël Jeremiasz, disabled sports symbol, advocates surpassing himself every day

However, it is not these top athletes who have the last word, but young people from Toulouse-Lautrec, in Vaucresson (Hauts-de-Seine) – an EREA (Regional Institution for Adapted Education) that offers pupils with motor disabilities and able-bodied people, in reverse inclusion . “The only way to change society is to show that we are there, to impose ourselves, not to imagine”, assures one of them. The battle for equality through sport is not yet completely won, but the next generation is assured.

We are people, documentary directed by Philippe Fontana and Michaël Jeremiasz (Fr., 2022, 98 min). On request on MyCanal.