Defying the stereotype

Luigi. an inspirational student with a great determination to achieve

Luigi. an inspirational student with a great determination to achieve

I suppose that it was inevitable that having featured a documentary “Indelible” on this blog (“I wanted to be normal, I became special.” March 23rd) that others would provide me with examples of similar films. Indeed the fact that others are prepared to share their experiences and ideas is one of the most pleasing aspects of maintaining this blog. Responding to the piece about “Indelible”, Time Loreman from Canada drew my attention to a film from Italy.

“CI PROVO” (Try I will) is a documentary film about a 22-year-old student with Down syndrome from Italy who was awarded an Erasmus scholarship to study in Spain. The film follows Luigi as he begins an independent life in rented accommodation with new friends, finds work and enjoys a social life. The honesty of the film which, far from presenting a rose tinted view of his life, shows some of the challenges that Luigi faces, enables the viewer to consider these issues from both his perspectives and those of the people around him.

At one point we see Luigi learning to manage tasks in an unfamiliar kitchen environment, in a scene which is notable for the patient way in which a friend guides him, without taking away from his determination to maintain his independence. Watching this section of the film I was struck by the effectiveness of the teaching that was taking place in this quite informal situation.

Luigi has ambitions to become an early years teacher and is attending a university course which provides him with opportunities to gain practical experience, alongside an understanding of pedagogical theories. A tutor from the University of Bologna explains how he takes exactly the same course and sits the same examination as his peers. She states that he is neither brilliant or inadequate as a student – much like the rest of the students in his group. She does, however, believe that Luigi is more reflective than many of the students on the course and asks himself more questions about his ability to succeed in his studies.

A particularly interesting passage of the film shows Luigi working at the Villa Gaia Playschool in Reggio Emilia. Here we see him engaging with children in a drama session based upon Red Riding Hood, assisting  them at lunchtime and interacting in a soft play area. He appears relaxed and confident with the children, and whilst it is evident that some of the adults around him wonder how he will cope, the children in the playschool have few apprehensions about his abilities.

Luigi certainly faces many challenges, we see him preparing for an oral examination and confronting self-doubt, but throughout this process he conveys a spirit and commitment to his ambition that enables those around him to maintain a belief in his potential. At one point whilst reflecting on what he might do if he fails a test he says, with some confidence “I’ll do it again.”

The film shows many of the aspects of life for a young man that we might expect. The complexity of personal relationships, the tensions that sometimes arise in friendships and with his parents, are typical of those that might be experienced by any student. Eventually we see Luigi travel to Murcia in Spain to experience life as an Erasmus student. Here we see him settling into an interesting phase of his studies and hear tutors reflecting positively on his entitlement to be there based solely on his merit. It is, they suggest, his right to be there because he has proven himself as capable as any of his peers to succeed on his chosen path.

There is much more that can be said about this powerful film, but my words cannot possibly do justice to Luigi and the story that is told. I can only assure you that making the time to watch (it lasts about an hour) will be an interesting experience that will make you think about many of the issues of stereotyping that still need to be confronted.

Thanks Tim for bringing this to our attention. I would be pleased to know what others think of Luigi’s experiences.

The link below will take you to “CI PROVO.”

http://www.cultureunplugged.com/documentary/watch-online/play/9561/CI-PROVO–TRY-I-WILL