Crip Camp is a movie of two halves. The first tells the tale of a summer camp which gave freedom to those that had been restricted in society and spotlights very personal tales while doing it. The second half is the story of how those people brought together in this progressive camp started a revolution and helped introduce aspects we take for granted today.
The first aspect of the film that will impress many is how much footage there is. Both of these stories are worthy of being told and deserve a documentary of their, and as if someone knew this would happen at some point, the movie is full of great footage of the camp and the protests that make up the latter part of the movie. What helps is that we get current talking heads brought into stark context with the footage most are talking about.
The Crip Camp itself would be enough for a film (and as you watch, you believe that is what the movie is primarily going to be about). In a time when disabled people were treated very differently and hurdles were quite literally put up in their path, a summer camp is available where the kids are treated no differently to their more physically capable friends and counsellors and if anything, encouraged to do things they would be unable to, or lack the support to, outside of this safe environment.
It also becomes a film about the people too. Those that form relationships, come out of their shell and eventually decide to use their new-found confidence to change life for the disabled of America. That is where the film becomes something very different.
Without knowing what Crip Camp is about, it can blindside you as the individuals come together to protest the access and rights within America, which make it impossible for them to live a full and unimpeded life. This story is fascinating, from an epic sit-in and the barriers put in place to stop them, from having people who struggle to move and have limited physical capability, sleeping on the floor of Government buildings. Again, it feels like this half could have been a film all to itself.
Which is where Crip Camp gets its disjointed feel from. The start of the movie is interesting but slow, not really leading anywhere except to highlight what a wonderful place the summer camp was. The second half has direction and engagement, overshadowing the titular aspect of the movie. Both feel under-served slightly by the decision to have the camp story feed into the protest one.
It doesn’t pull from the focus of the movie too much though and you will be engaged by the story as it unfolds. Its fascinating to see the aspects of daily life that even as an able-bodied person, you take for granted, and the fight that had to be won for some of the basic aspects of human decency and human rights.
Overall, Crip Camp is tells two very distinct stories that would both benefit from a documentary of their own. The first half showcases the possibilities, positives and successes of a progressive summer camp for the disabled while the other tells the story of the people who attended that camp that grew up to be the protestors who would change lives for the people of America. The fact that these two great stories are split across one documentary hurts it slightly but it is still told in a great way with some very impressive footage of the events as they unfold.
Rating – 3.5
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