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25 April 2011

photo of an audience inside a film installation

Resistance: which way the future?

Debbe Caulfield  and three disabled friends saw Liz Crow’s _Resistance; Which Way the Future _at The Brewhouse Theatre & Arts Centre in Taunton on 12th and 29 March 2011. It made them think…

A 30 minute moving image installation, Resistance is a history lesson cum reality check in three parts. The first part is a mini-drama about the Nazi’s systematic murder of disabled people during World War Two. In the opening scene, against a backdrop of dark-panelled opulence, the ‘observation’ institution celebrates its 1000th dispatch. According to the medical man in charge,  in sending disabled people to their deaths, they are performing:

"… a noble duty. We alleviate their suffering and make a better world for us all."

In a starkly bare room, disabled people reminisce about cake.  They wait to be told. The doctor strides in with his entourage and quickly makes his selection. At this point panic breaks out. The blind woman is confused; was she chosen?

Accompanied by a stirring soundtrack, real disabled people (not non disabled actors pretending to be disabled) are dragged and shoved into a van that has been menacingly parked, engine running, throughout. While some go quietly – it might be just an outing like the nurse had said - others protest and cry out.

"No! I don’t want to go! No!"

One man is held in a headlock and forcibly injected. He goes. They go, all except one who manages to escape – this time.

In the second film, disabled actors reflect on the wider current issues and their visit to the actual killing place. Until recently the room was used for art therapy, a notion which one of the actors finds especially chilling.

For another actor, isolation and lack of voice are key issues.

"You can't be connected in hell. And many disabled people have no voice. As an artist and disabled person, I have a responsibility to unleash those voices."

The final part gives voice to present-day disabled people, their struggle to participate in society as citizens, as equals.

_"Deep down, I don’t believe I have the right to exist. I have to prove it over and over." _

So what needs to happen to ensure inclusion in the future?

"We keep going out; it's a mini revolution each time."
"Speaking out. If no one speaks out, nothing changes."
"Solidarity... we need allies (non-disabled people) to notice when we're missing. This isn’t just about disabled people. It is about society…"

Three disabled friends of mine saw Resistance. Usually they just get on with life; Resistance made them think. They found the film beautiful and moving, but to them it’s history. It could have been them, then. This is now; it’ll never happen again.

With no frame of reference, such as that provided by the social model of disability, any connection between a horrific past and a horrific future is … unthinkable. However, lack of thinking and awareness allows bad people to do bad things. It also stops good people doing good things, as pointed out by one of the actors:

"We make it easier by focusing on now. What the Nazis did is too big and horrific for people to think about. It takes strength of mind to resist. Yet, even if it doesn’t change things … maybe it saves the next person."

Resistance needs and deserves big audiences, particularly of disabled people. With some re-jigging and re-packaging, it could work well as an awareness-raising and campaigning tool. The reactions of my friends is a reminder that there is a need for such. Perhaps Resistance should leave the hallowed confines of the ‘mainstream’ Art Gallery and go wherever it is disabled people gather these days. OK, so let’s bring them together!

The latest venue confirmed for showing Resistance is Gloucester Cathedral from Monday 3 October – Monday 14 November 2011
Bristol’s  'M Shed' museum has booked Resistance for 5 January to 5 February 2012.

For more details please go to the Roaring Girl Productions website

Go to DAOs profiles section for the inside story on the making of Resistance