The Underground is our recurring feature, resurrected from an all-time great CHUD column, the aim of which is to get the word out on projects outside the Hollywood studio system. Studio films have big promotion engines behind them. The Underground caters to everything else: from indie films, to cult films in the making, pet projects, guerrilla films, internet shorts, etc.
Dislecksia: The Movie is a documentary about dyslexia by filmmaker Harvey Hubbell, who happens to be dyslexic. Hubbell uses his own experiences growing up with the issue and struggling with it to springboard the proceedings. He details his frustration in school, which started at age six, when his teachers noted that he could barely write his first name. He underwent extensive testing as a kid and, as Hubbell puts it, “testing never ends when you’re a dyslexic.” As he grew up in the ’60s and ’70s, he learned to read outside of the school system with special tutoring. It wasn’t until 1975 that the first laws to recognize the rights of the learning disabled to education.
Hubbell also delves into the history of the disorder and the medical definitions of it. As dyslexia wasn’t well-understood back in the 1960’s, there were all kinds of quack remedies adopted by educators to try to deal with it, including Hubbell saying that one of the therapies he tried was walking on a balance beam as a child. Hubbell also investigates modern approaches to treating the disorder, which include schools specializing in educating kids stricken by it. Wisconsin schools still don’t recognize dyslexia as a condition that people have because if they did, they would have to pay for the funding of the specialized education.
Hubbell had been working on the project since 2003 and enlisted such dyslexic personalities as Billy Bob Thornton, the late Stephen J. Cannell and U.S. Congressman Kendrick Meek. In Cannell’s case, the fact that a guy who’s dyslexic yet managed to write over 450 episodes of television is remarjkable. Billy Bob Thornton runs his film lines with an assistant to learn them rather than reading them. And when he’s writing a film himself, he writes in his own style on a notepad and then gets it typed. Daytime actress Sarah Joy Brown, another subject of the documentary, memorizes her lines rather than reads them. That’s a trademark of dyslexics: that oftentimes they find ways to adapt around their “learning difference” as they call it.
Other famous dyslexics include Muhammad Ali, Keanu Reeves, Tom Cruise, Whoopi Goldberg, Keira Knightley, Tommy Hilfiger, Steven Spielberg, Orlando Bloom, Anderson Cooper, Jay Leno, Richard Branson and Albert Einstein among many others. Currently about 1 in 7 people have dyslexia or some other type of reading difficulty. What’s unusual is that, according to the documentary, is that dyslexics like Branson tend to make good CEOs and often become wealthy because of how they see things and have to work to overcome their disability. This is obviously a passion project for Hubbell, and he uses a lot of humor to get his point across. The documentary is light, informative and purpose-driven to get the word out about the disorder.
Dislecksia: The Movie opens in Los Angeles this Friday, October 11th followed by a nationwide one night only screening event on October 17th, followed by a city by city theatrical tour with Hubbell through early 2014. He’ll also be doing Q&As this Friday and Saturday following the 7:10pm show at Laemmle’s Music Hall 3 in Beverly Hills.
If you’ve got a film or project somewhere in the fringes that belongs in The Underground and needs some attention, hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org