ENIL is pleased to share with you an article and a short film about Independent Living created by one of the ENIL Youth Network members from Serbia – Lana Nikolic. Read her sincere story below and don’t miss the 9-minute film at the end! Maybe it will inspire you to film your story?
“In 2016, while working on the project “Involved not Invalid”, organised by the Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR) from Serbia, I got a chance to make a short film where my own experience as a person with disability is shown. This is what I learned while working on it.
Do you really want this?
As a fresh intern in the amazing YIHR team, I was working on a project entitled “Involved not invalid”, which focused on mapping grade of inaccessibility of high schools and faculties in Belgrade, Serbia. When we were thinking about following activities, an idea came up from my colleagues – why don’t we make a movie about Lana? Actually, although I said “yes” right away, I was thinking about it for a few days.
I knew about many negative experiences of my friends with disability if they decided to shoot a movie where they are the main character. I didn’t want to be presented as it usually happens – as a sad, poor student who is living a fulfilled life despite disability. I hate the word ‘despite’ in such context! My disability is not something that makes me live my life despite it. I do that in harmony with it!. I didn’t want to feel like my disability is abused, which is also a very frequent situation when it comes to videos of this kind. Neither I wanted to be exposed so much – when you make a video, and it is online, even your grandchildren can watch it.
Finally, after thinking for long, I made up my decision – since I anyway speak a lot publicly about my experiences on this subject, why wouldn’t I do that again, in a new way? As a pretty good and sometimes charming speaker, I have, as I early realised – a responsibility to make society aware of all this, to contribute to breaking prejudices. So, I said yes to my colleagues!
How we actually filmed “In the Interspace”?
Well, not like you would imagine, all smooth and shiny. It wasn’t like that at all. The YIHR team, which I was part of at the time, was more than amazing, but the video’s director was young and inexperienced. I had my own vision – to make a video with less me as a personality, but with more of my view on the obstacles – stairs, pavements, prejudices, with that different perspective of space that every person with disability has. I wanted to show people how confusing but beautiful it is to be so different; in a movie made of different pieces, that will make people think, be astonished, and wanting to bring a change themselves. Not a story about myself with my everyday life.
You guess, that’s exactly what happened. The director had her own idea – me in the main role, showing how complicated my life is, with slight touches of that craziness of experiences I wanted from the start. In the end, after lots of compromises, we made a video that was fine. Not what I actually said “yes” to, but something that was telling a story about important matters: obstacles, love, job, prejudices.
Is there a message?
Yes. For everyone. But not one and only that is correct. Someone will still see a poor pretty girl that would be so perfect if not with these problematic legs. Someone will admire me, or my boyfriend for being with me (that is very often unfortunately). Someone will ask himself/ herself about my love and sexual life, and about my studies. Someone will think of the secret source of my daily strength to live a normal, really normal life with a lot of colours and laughing. Someone will just understand it right.
And probably no one will in fact know how much I wanted to say in so little time. How strong I tried to underline that having a job, a boyfriend, being a master of philology with a desire to go on to a PhD is just normal. Or at least should be. Nothing to admire to, nothing to be praised. Just life as it is, with society that should give a chance to everyone with disability to live with all their capacities fulfilled. Instead of being judged and constantly daily confronted with a million stupid prejudices and questioning their value as person, expert, lover, friend – just because of a disability.
The movie was so much different from what I wanted but in the end I realized – it still made a difference I so much wanted. It changed in a way people who watched it. Everyone did it in their own way. But I am sure that they felt something. Something bigger than themselves and their fears and prejudices. Maybe it will contribute to that global change of society, whatever way they want to. I want to believe that this video is somewhere within them, changing them from inside, helping them to make a difference in this world, on disability or any other field.
And my next step?
I will do this again! Filming, exposing myself, speaking about disability, studying, love, sex, prejudices. Because someone has to make these small steps and make a path for the ones who are coming in future. Society needs change of attitudes when it comes to disability. And I will contribute to it in my own way – by speaking publicly on debates, as a radio journalist, as a painter, poet, writer, student. I will make people laugh, break their fears, I will fight and yell and speak out loud whenever I get a chance – how beautiful, how complicated, how amazing, how unique every person with disability is.
Because I want a better world for youth with disabilities that will come.
A world where diversity will be celebrated and nurtured as the greatest treasure humanity has.”
Photo: Lana Nikolic