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‘One Little Finger’ challenges norms of persons with disabilities

By BY CINDY SCHUMACHER - | Oct 3, 2019

“One Little Finger,” a concert and film by Rupam Sarmah, will be held on Saturday, Oct. 5, at 7 p.m. at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s McCoy Studio Theater. The show opens with a concert by Sarmah with special guests George Kahumoku Jr. and Rock Hendricks, followed by the Maui premiere of “One Little Finger.” Presented by Mental Health Kokua, the film has won multiple awards around the world.

KAHULUI – The film “One Little Finger” is making history with more than 80 persons with disabilities acting in the movie. Over one billion people worldwide live with some form of disability, and the likelihood of experiencing disability at some stage in life pertains to everyone.

Despite the large, global population dealing with disability, the surrounding stigma engrained in society detracts from the amazing ability of many individuals.

“‘One Little Finger’ challenges these norms by ambitiously including over 80 persons with disabilities in the cast,” said Dr. Tom Vendetti, former director of Mental Health Kokua.

“These individuals represent a variety of conditions, including cerebral palsy, hearing impairments, intellectual disabilities, autism, Down syndrome, multiple sclerosis, dementia and others. The primary goal of this movie is to bring awareness of this important human rights issue while promoting inclusion and diversity.”

“One Little Finger” is a narrative English feature film produced in the U.S. and India with a theme of “Ability in Disability.”

Written and directed by Dr. Rupam Sarmah, the film is based on real-life stories. It is about an American neurologist who uprooted her life to research music therapy in India. After arriving in India, she teaches children and adults with disabilities and inspires them to challenge themselves.

“Using film media as a platform, we are allowing differently-abled people to act in this film alongside local and international award-winning actors to promote inclusion and diversity,” said Sarmah. “Remarkably, more then 80 children and young adults with disabilities have acted in this film!”

The movie was filmed over the course of five years and across several locations in the U.S. and India. Members of the cast and crew come from many different regions, namely Assam, Kolkata, South India, Mumbai and the U.S. All characters with disabilities in the film are portrayed by disabled cast members.

Tamela D’Amico is a Hollywood actress and appears as a lead in the movie. Oscar-nominated composer and actress Siedah Garrett plays the role of Dr. Claudia. Abhinaya is a South Indian actress who is also hearing impaired, and her character has the same disability.

“Similarly, Den, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and rare genetic disorders, plays a character with conditions resembling his. Jeeja also plays a character with cerebral palsy, which she herself has,” Vendetti noted.

“The music is directed by Rupam Sarmah, who has made music therapy an integral part of the film. Many Grammy- and Oscar-winning artists were involved in the making of the sound track, including Quincy Jones, Julian Lennon, Siedah Garrett, Kechi Okwuchi, Kevin Mackie and Vishwa Mohan Bhatt.”

The film was internationally premiered in March de Film-Cannes Film Festival on May 16, 2019.

The director said, “It was quite challenging to start with unknowns, as we had many children and young adults with various disabilities. Many people believe that disabled people are a burden on society and they avoid them, because they do not know how to act around them. Never underestimate their abilities. It opened my eyes. Our thoughts, words and actions matter a lot.

“We are all going to face the challenges with disabilities as we age or take turns in our life. In fact, we all know someone, maybe our loved ones in our family, with some disabilities who needs our love – could be our parents, friends, brothers, sisters or children. So, treat them well with respect as a human being, and give them love and a helping hand.”

“‘One Little Finger’ is not just a film,” Vendetti concluded. “It’s a movement to break the barriers of the stigma of the word ‘disability.’ All it takes is a change in perspective – a change in our mindset! Disability is only what we perceive; ability is everything of what we believe!”