The creative process behind the multi award-winning 2012 Adelaide Fringe stage play, Sons & Mothers, is the basis of this behind-the-scenes documentary. What makes it unique is not just the lack of narration, but the participants themselves, who workshopped and developed it with the guidance of artistic director Alirio Zavarce.
Local production company POP Pictures filmed the two-year development process, bringing to the screen a slow moving but captivating look at mental health, disability and, above all, the progression of the show from beginning to end.
The play was produced by the No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability and reprised a year after its debut, examining the relationship between six men and their mothers. Each of the participants has some form of disability and, as the documentary shows, not all were able to complete the journey.
Like the play itself, the documentary is heart-warming, funny, frustrating and, at times, emotional, although it thankfully steers clear of any sentimentality or emotional manipulation of its audience. Film director Christopher Houghton successfully captures the moments that make up the journey without the need for narration or emotive music.
It succeeds on many levels:
For those outside of the disability sector, this 81-minute film is a sharp reminder of the minds and hearts that exist behind a genetic disorder. It’s a good lesson on how to speak to and respect those with a disability, never underestimating their capacity to comprehend, learn, laugh and succeed.
For those within the sector, either professionally or personally, this documentary is a triumphant beacon of hope, showing what can be achieved and demonstrating that, even when an individual can’t make it to the end, the successes along the way are successes nonetheless.
For those within the Arts sector, the documentary is a fascinating and exciting glimpse into the development process of a community project with special kudos to Zavarce for his guiding light.
For mothers everywhere, the stage play is a tribute to their love and dedication, and the film captures the common struggle of every man to sometimes express our own reciprocal feelings.
The DVD comes with both Closed Captions for the hearing impaired and Audio Description for those with a visual disability. Like the stage play, the documentary has already taken out several award nominations and gongs. While it may not immediately appeal to a general audience, it is certainly recommended, both for its humanity and its educational value.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 8
Sons & Mothers is available for purchase from The Education Shop. Study guides are also available.
High Schools can access a copy to show in class through Enhance TV.
University distribution is through Kanopy.