By Catia Malaquias
“Inclusion early on almost guarantees inclusion later on. But segregation early on almost guarantees segregation in the rest of life.” – Sara Jo Soldovieri
“Forget Me Not”, a new award-winning film by director Olivier Bernier documents his experience with his wife Hilda, to have their 3-year old son Emilio, who has Down syndrome, included in the United States’ most segregated school system, the New York City public school system.
The film, which first screened at the Human Rights Film Festival on 23 September 2021 and is sponsored by Human Rights Watch, Videocamp and the Alana Foundation, not only tells the personal story of Emilio and his family as they find themselves cornered in their fight for their son’s right to an inclusive education, but also investigates the personal stories of disabled students and their parents in the US, exposing widespread injustices currently taking place in the educational system and beyond for children and young people with disability.
The film provides a rare look at what a truly inclusive education can look like and how it can lead to a more inclusive society for all. It features leading inclusive education experts, including Emeritus Professor Thomas Hehir from the Harvard School of Education, who is one of the world’s experts in inclusive education and who previously served as director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs from 1993 to 1999.
Bernier describes his experience and the purpose behind the film as follows:
Films can put a dent in the world. It was a short film in 1972 that led to the eventual closure of most of America’s institutions for people with disabilities. With Forget Me Not, I would like to continue that progress by amplifying the voices of the least vocal segment of our population, people with intellectual disabilities. This film aims to break down the social and systemic barriers that routinely segregate and hide them from society.
We want to shine a light on these issues by making a film that connects with a wide audience, beyond the disabilities community, including those who feel marginalized or discarded for different reasons and those who are less familiar with the topic but can empathize with the injustices in our world.
Personally, I never expected to make a film so close to home but I’ve recognized my unique position as a filmmaker and a father to tell an unfettered story that is raw, naked and meaningful. Making this film has led me to discover what inclusion for my son could look like and how he and children with similar challenges, can reach their full potential. My hope is this film does the same for everyone who watches it.
In the film Julius’ big sister Laura and I make our respective accidental and fleeting film debuts in footage of the United Nations in New York, at a meeting about inclusive education where I presented about the Australian education system.
Bernier was selected as the recipient of the $400,000 Videocamp Film Fund 2018, an initiative supported by the Alana Foundation, a philanthropic organization that promotes children’s rights.
You can watch the trailer for “Forget Me Not” below and organise a personal or public screening of the film here.
Forget Me Not provides a fantastic opportunity to explain and promote the human right to inclusive education for all children, by organising film screenings in schools and universities, for parent and community groups, for conferences and teacher professional development events and as part of celebrations for International Day of People With Disability.
Read more about inclusion education and why it matters:
[Cover photo © Inclusive Films]