Filmmaker Olivier Bernier's latest project is not just work, it's personal. He's making a documentary following his search for inclusive education for his son Emilio, who has Down syndrome…
Finding your child's first school is a big moment for any parent, but for parents of children with disabilities, the process feels even more fraught with difficulties.
Two years ago our son Emilio was born. Becoming parents for the first time was overwhelming, and there were so many new challenges. Besides all the challenges we expected with having a child, Emilio also has Down syndrome, which brought additional challenges. When I was growing up I didn't go to an inclusive school and didn't know many people with a disability, so I was ill prepared for my own son's arrival.
I think my lack of an inclusive education when I was a child failed me as a father, and in many ways left me unprepared for what was to come.
I do not want the education system to fail Emilio by creating an environment in which he believes his contribution to the world is less valuable than others. All I want is for him to be included, for him to grow up knowing he is equal to his peers, to meet people from all walks of life and have the opportunity to achieve his full potential.
Emilio turns three in May, and before then we've got to tackle the challenge of the New York City public school system, the largest in the world.
In these two years since our son's birth, my wife Hilda have been on a journey to understand how we can create the best future for Emilio. Most importantly, we are constantly asking: “How can we do our part to create the best world possible for every child with disabilities?”
I'm a filmmaker, so the best way I can fight for a better world is through storytelling.
The Videocamp Film Fund, supported by UNICEF, this year challenged filmmakers across the world to make a film about inclusive education. This felt like fate - the ideal way to get this documentary off the ground.
Videocamp is an online platform for free public screenings of social impact films, dedicated to widening access to film for everyone and promoting social change. It was the perfect complement to my values of inclusivity. I was elated when my project was selected for the fund, and now the film is in pre-production.
I'm making a documentary following our search for an inclusive school for Emilio, exploring inclusive education and its benefits for everyone, not only children with disabilities.
I want to compare our experience with inclusive education here in New York with children growing up in other countries, looking for success stories of inclusive education and how our schools can best serve all our children. Hilda is a teacher, certified in teaching students with disabilities, so she has been on the front lines of the strengths and challenges of inclusive education. Together we'll collaborate on this film, combining our knowledge and consulting experts to do this story justice.
This is a story about the benefits of inclusivity, and people with disabilities need to be represented behind the camera as well as on screen. We're looking for production crew with disabilities to work on the film, starting in New York but also in other locations such as Europe, to show how an inclusive environment can be successful beyond the classroom.
I want to use this opportunity to shine a light on the lives of families like ours, to show that children like Emilio can thrive in the right environment, and create a film that can make the world a little bit better for the next generation.
For more information on the Videocamp inclusive education project, follow the website and social media channels