When I Walk is both the title of filmmaker Jason DaSilva’s intimate documentary and his rallying cry of sorts against the debilitating disease that literally knocked him off his feet in his early 20s.
DaSilva, now 35, spent seven years documenting through video his painful journey of physical decline from primary progressive multiple sclerosis, for which there is no treatment or cure. While there are moments of cringe-worthy sadness in the film, there is also a good dose of humour. DaSilva can be funny, likely a trait inherited from his mother, a tough as nails pragmatist who doesn’t let DaSilva whine over his fate. At one point she chastises him for being a “coddled North American kid.” Not to give too much away, but there is also romance in the film.
In a conversation with the Courier from his New York base, DaSilva’s passion can be heard in his voice, but so can the disease that is rapidly taking his speech, sometimes making it difficult to understand his slurred words.
“I have declined quite a bit, even in the last six months,” he said.
At 23 years old, the Emily Carr graduate was living the dream, as he describes it — he had a documentary film at the Sundance Film Festival, was traveling the world, dating and partying.
When he started to notice strange symptoms, difficulty walking, slurred speech, it was easy to brush it off, he said. It wasn’t until he fell down a flight of stairs that his mom took to the Internet and encouraged her son to see a doctor.
According to the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, approximately 100,000 people in Canada have MS, but only 10 per cent of cases are primary progressive, which is characterized by a lack of relapses common to other forms of the autoimmune disease.
When he learned of his diagnosis DaSilva said he thought he was finished, but then decided he had work he wanted to do. “Was I going to let this disease stop me? Hell no,” DaSilva said in a video journal entry on his website.
In addition to showing When I Walk at the Vancouver International Film Festival this weekend, DaSilva is set to launch AXS Mapping Day, a crowd-sourced initiative, which asks smartphone users to register businesses that are accessible for people with disabilities. He said out of all the cities he has been to, the worst are Paris and New York. He expects Vancouver, a “liberal city,” to be fairly accessible.
“The goal is to find out all the places that are accessible. My hopes are that it will provide leverage for other buildings to be more accommodating,” says DaSilva in his press release.
AXS Mapping Day is Sept. 29 at noon at Emily Carr University. To find out about the access map go to, axsmap.com.
Sponsored by the MS Society of Canada, When I Walk screens at the Vancouver International Film Festival Sept. 28 at 6:15 p.m. and Oct. 3 at 1 p.m. For film festival details, go to viff.org.
More information about the film can be found at wheniwalk.com.
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