Documentary Review: ‘Intelligent Lives’

Not fitting into the so-called ‘normal’ mold has been the prime reason of discrimination in our society since the olden times. When young children do not qualify the popular intelligence tests in schools, their failure is classified into intellectual disability leading to loads of hardships. Documentary ‘Intelligent lives’ takes us through this difficult journey of three winners who refuse to accept this disability and make a happy life for themselves.

Director Dan Habib has done a brilliant job by touching a sensitive yet significant topic in the society. When intellectual disability can alienate Micah, Naieer and Naomie from the other students, the story focusses over their supportive environment and belief in themselves. As all three receive opportunities in their respective school, university and employment center, they bring out the best. A well-researched documentary with information from the historic times, it manages to grip the audience from start to end. It is interesting to understand how so-called accepted statistical methods or popular techniques can work against these individuals who have skills, yet suffer from lack of opportunities.

Narrator Chris Cooper takes us through his personal experiences with son Jesse who did not fit into the mold of normal students. It points to the hardship faced by exclusion and discrimination because the society refuses to see them as potential successful candidates. The narration and story unfold in a simple manner as it focusses over the hidden strength of each of the three. Micah’s confidence to live alone and take care of himself, Naieer’s desire to study and work hard, and Naomie’s enthusiasm to work with her colleagues are nothing less than pure inspiration. They make one realize that it is possible to change circumstances our way for our advantage.

Defying all odds, each of these three come across as confident heroes in their own manner of work. It stresses over the fact that intelligence cannot be measured by standard tests. It is incorrect to calculate intelligence through some tried and tested formulas. Because such methods fail to check an individual’s unique capability or talent, it can lead to discrimination.

Through the inspiring story of these three individuals, the documentary paints a positive, hopeful and bright picture of hope, success and happiness. It also depicts the support offered by their community of friends, family, teachers and society members. As teachers, it is necessary to exhibit patience, belief and trust that these individuals will be empowered no matter how long it takes. The documentary brings a true picture as it shows the difficulties faced by everyone in the process. Though difficulties and challenges make it harder, it is the end result of long –lasting happiness that makes it all worth it.

When given an opportunity, these individuals can do much more than expected. It is time to dissolve the differences and make them feel included in the society. Instead of measuring intelligence, it is necessary to gauge the unique potential of every student and make a customized plan for their empowerment.

An interesting documentary with an educational touch, ‘Intelligent lives’ is all about power of hope, efforts and belief.

INTELLIGENT LIVES will open theatrically for a full week run in New York on Friday, September 21 at the Village East Cinema with a national release to follow.

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