You need not gussy it up with VR to get individuals to care about this Sundance story.
Cinema and tv have lengthy been the usual gateways to discover completely different cultures and places. However is there a chance to use it, together with digital actuality, to a marginalized group usually ignored? The Argentinean manufacturing “4 Feet High,” debuting at Sundance, seeks to make the most of VR in addition to a normal episodic tv construction to debate incapacity in a brand new and distinctive method.
“4 Toes Excessive” tells the story of Juana (Marisol Agostina Irigoyen), a younger lady who makes use of a wheelchair and has simply transferred to a brand new college. In her quest to search out herself, she will get enmeshed with a gaggle of fellow college students protesting the nation’s lack of sexual schooling in faculties.
There are two elements to taking in “4 Toes Excessive.” Probably the most accessible — which means what’s going to seize able-bodied audiences — is watching the six-episode collection. This captures the nuances of Juana’s wrestle for independence, in addition to that of her family and friends. When telling a disabled narrative there are quite a few issues at play, a lot of that are solely tangentially about being disabled. On this case, the narrative doesn’t simply look at Juana’s sexual awakening, however how her pals and the varsity responds to her as a disabled particular person.
There are moments that really feel painfully actual, not simply as a coming-of-age story for youngsters, however particularly for disabled youngsters. When she and a good friend are cited for being out of sophistication, Juana calls for the principal give her the identical punishment or else it’s discrimination. Juana goes out to a nightclub the place a lady stops and declares Juana is setting an instance for individuals to understand life. Juana responds with: “Your life should be terrible if I’m setting the instance.”
The place the collection pushes the envelope, although, is in its frank depictions of Juana participating in intercourse and, extra importantly, the trivia of intimacy. As a result of incapacity isn’t showcased in tv, the “how-to” of relationships are left clean for disabled teenagers. It’s onerous sufficient studying about intercourse from motion pictures, however think about not figuring out in any respect the place to begin. We see Juana have to elucidate to the individuals she’s intimate with on how one can deal with her, unbuckle her from her wheelchair, and that creates intimacy in a method that feels extra weak than the intercourse act itself.
After all, the viewers would possibly say that Juana is certainly placing herself in conditions that would flip ugly, however what Maria Belen Poncio and Rosario Perazolo Masjoan do is make the viewers query why can’t Juana simply have flippant sexual experiences like everybody else? At one level, there’s a danger of being pregnant, reminding everybody of how precarious reproductive well being providers are in Argentina.
Natalia Roca / Courtesy of Sundance Institute
The intercourse apart, what “4 Toes Excessive” usually will get proper is the essential want to simply be accepted and micro-aggressions which are usually expressed by the individuals closest to her. Her mom critiquing what kind of gown Juana desires to put on — asking her why “you need individuals to have a look at you,” or Juana’s good friend believing that the lovable lady within the wheelchair is perceived as extra likable and thereby is overshadowing the intercourse schooling motion. Within the VR phase there’s a second the place Juana is lifted in her wheelchair on the behest of her good friend, who asks a gaggle of strangers for assist. In case you’re a disabled viewer, you’ve been in these conditions, and by no means earlier than have they been seen, not to mention contextualized.
For the Sundance Movie Pageant the creators added in a four-episode VR element, comprised of particular scenes that put the viewer into Juana’s world, actually. That is actually enjoyable on a novelty degree, but it surely’s onerous to see this as enhancing Juana’s story in a serious method. Perhaps it’s as a result of the headset doesn’t essentially put you on Juana’s degree in the identical method as listening to her ideas; it’s nonetheless offered in an episodic, albeit truncated, method. It might have been higher to possibly add a bodily element, of putting the viewer on the identical degree as Juana and navigating boundaries like stairs, particularly within the episode the place she and a good friend try to go to a intercourse store.
I, personally, need to see extra collection like “4 Toes Excessive.” You don’t must gussy it up with VR to get individuals to care concerning the story. Juana and her points are completely fitted to tv and, if something, this collection proves there’s room for extra disabled storytelling.