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New film challenges perceptions of living with a disability

September 9, 2020

An inspirational Gold Coast-backed film about six people born with disabilities has recently been released.

No Distinguishing Features was directed and filmed by three Bond University alumni and took four years to produce.

From a young Paralympian’s journey to achieve his childhood dream, to a mother fighting for her intellectually disabled son’s right to a fair wage, the families share their lives with honesty, humour and heartbreak.

“We were seeing a real universality in the experiences of people being told really early on in life that this is what your life will be, these are the limits, this is the boundary,” co-director Hamish Ludbrook said.

“Our subjects all pushed against that and had to advocate for themselves -- that life could be more interesting and exciting than the medical system were telling them.

“It wasn’t super-easy to get financial support for a project like this, but we snagged an awesome series of grants from the Gold Coast Council and others that really helped.”

The key to the film – which launched via Vimeo On Demand on Friday August 28 – was to keep a small film crew.

“We wanted to keep it intimate,” Mr Ludbrook said.

“Our subjects told stories and put things on film I don’t think they’d ever talked about before.

“Even when we did the interview with Rowan -- who won a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games -- and his mum, she was talking about things she hadn’t even told Rowan before, about the birth and other things.

“We were pretty privileged to be in the room and have the intimacy into someone’s life.

“We felt like we had an obligation to share their story.

“My understanding of what it is like to live with a disability has really broadened. I learned to understand a lot of it comes to do with perspective and how we impose limitations on people out of expectations of what they can’t or can do based on history.”

The film also explores the journey of a boy born with no arms, with the hospital telling his mother he had no hope in life, only for him to become a lawyer, a judge and then finally running the very same institution he could’ve been sent to at birth.