Crip Camp


The first beautiful documentary of the year and the decade.

“Crip Camp” is a made-for-Netflix documentary that will bring tears to your eyes. It focuses on Camp Jened, just down the road from Woodstock in the 1970s, which welcomed disabled people of all shapes and sizes, and it became their world. The outside, however, would have people, who were repulsed by them, and use despicable words like “retarded.” And being an autistic film critic, my mother absolutely loathes that word, and I don’t blame her.

The doc introduces us to some of the people who either went to this camp, or are just found themselves supporting for the disabled’s liberty. And each wanted to make differences within themselves.

  • Jim Lebrecht, a sound designer and mixer, was born with spina bifida, and eventually became an activist, after years of trying to survive in this world. He basically serves as a narrator and co-director of the film.
  • Judy Heumann had polio, which prevented her from walking and frolicking, and she couldn’t even go to school until they added a special Eds program. 
  • Denise and Neil Jacobson both have cerebral palsy, and they met and fell in love at the camp. 
  • Lionel Je’ Woodyard was an African-American camp councilor, who, at first, was not prepared to work at a camp of disabled people, and acknowledges the discrimination and violence outside the camps.
  • Hollynn D’Ill was a journalist, who became a paraplegic after getting hit by a truck, and became involved in the rights movement. She used to be prejudice about these people, until she became disabled.

Heumann was also the President of of the political disabled organization “Disabled in Action,” which fought for their rights. And boy, did they have a number of problems. 

  • There was also the Willowbrook mental hospital, which had disabled people deteriorating themselves in the most horrifying ways. What kind of monster would treat them like animals? I ask you!
  • Richard Nixon vetoed a bill setting up as vocational rehabilitation program, and William Ronan (NY Transit Authority) refused to give New York subways elevators and wheelchair ramps. Why? Because they both said they would be costly.
  • And the organization protesters used all their gifts and bravery to fight back against the broken system

The movie also features classic hits, including Tommy James & The Shondells’ “Crimson and Clover,” Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,”  and Bob Dylan’s “Tomorrow Is a Long Time.” And they allow the movie to represent its high spirits and courageousness.

“Crip Camp” is about equality for everyone, and the people affected by the camp and the rights movement are truly beautiful human beings. Whether they’re physically or mentally impaired, they’re all filled with their strengths and weaknesses, and you really feel their emotions and ambitions.

Directors Jim Lebrecht and Nicole Newnham and executive producers Barrack and Michelle Obama have all outdone themselves, by overpowering cynicisms and hatred, and they represent almost every emotion in our minds and hearts. It leaves you angry with the discrimination, sad at the misery, and happy at how human these disabled people are. I’ve seen excellent movies about special people like “Rain Man,” “Forrest Gump,” “The Intouchables,” and now “Crip Camp” is more than welcomed to the club.


Available for streaming on Netflix

Categories: Documentary

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