Film Review // Looking Up // Cara Howard
I don’t think I really consider myself disabled I’m just ‘me with removable parts’.
Selling itself as ‘The highs and lows for female paraclimbers’ this charming short documentary features some of the best female paraclimbers in the UK. Think Sianagh Gallagher and Fran Brown, as well as Esme Hart and Alex Taylor. Each of these inspiring women brings something different to the story.
What’s so clear from the film is that women of all ages and abilities can and do climb. It provides a brilliant dialogue on the impact that climbing can have on an individual. In it Alex Taylor talks about the difficulties of becoming disabled with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and going back to climbing at a lower level than she was prior to having the disability. As always Fran Brown is incredibly articulate bringing to the fore the skills that anyone can gain through the sport of climbing, giving superb examples of how individuals with different types of disabilities might improve specific skills.
Esme Hart’s words are just lovely – ‘I am me with removable parts’ – providing a stark reminder that a person who has a disability is a person – they are you and me, perhaps a neighbour or a friend, normal people who don’t need to be treated differently, but whose ‘disability’ is created by society’s approach to their needs. Sianagh Gallagher’s words are particularly resonant and reflective of the climbing community as a whole – come and try it – you’re welcomed into the community of climbers.
Interspersed with interviews are shots of the climbers climbing indoors, demonstrating how someone with one arm can climb and how someone with removable parts can climb. If you’re confused about how someone with a disability can even climb this film will show you how.
The single aspect of the film which disappoints is that it starts with Jamie Andrews, organiser of paraclimbing events, talking about how he got into climbing. As the film is pitched as the highs and lows of female paraclimbers this simply doesn’t match the message, even more so because of its position as the first dialogue in the film. The women in this documentary have strong messages and any one of these messages could have kicked off the film in good style. While Jamie no doubt has provided the sport with an incredible platform for development, the film isn’t about the development of the sport and therefore isn’t relevant to the story. Don’t get this wrong – the film is a great short film about paraclimbers, but this relatively small detail affects its quality as a whole. The other detail which limits the power of the film is that the music is predictable – why not something more rocky, more upbeat, to reflect the awesome psyche, commitment and strength of these amazing women who are pushing their sport in new and innovative ways?
In summary, a great film to introduce paraclimbing, show the key paraclimbing women on the UK and demonstrate the benefits of the sport with a few elements that would benefit from attention to make the film even better.
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By Emily Pitts