BY THE TIME I NOTICED my four-year-old son creeping on the toddler in the ruffley outfit, he already had overpowered her to snatch the binkie from her clenched teeth.
Another mother might have flown like a sparrow through the park’s monkey bars to rescue and comfort precious Charlotte.
Instead, I stifled a belly laugh because I could relate to my boy’s impulse.
A little girl blessed to be talking so clearly before age 3 needs to ditch the binkie.
But I could tell that Ray scared the bejeezus out of her by hurling the accessory he never mouthed as a baby down on the wood chips.
So, I wandered over to the park bench where little Charlotte sat melodramatically sobbing between her 8-year-old brother and 5-year-old sister.
Standing before the trio, I told them them the truth about Ray, that he never meant to hurt anyone’s feelings. Then, I promised to bring him over, even though he could not yet apologize with words.
“Is he handicapped?” the 8-year-old asked.
“Yes, he is,” I said, pleasantly surprised by the child’s perception and straightforward question.
“Well, you never know with those handicappers, you never know what they’re gonna do,” he said.
The boy’s comment came to mind again earlier this month during a screening of the award-winning film, “Menschen,” at the Sie FilmCenter in Denver.
“Menschen” means “human beings” in German.
The Denver-based Global Down Syndrome Foundation hosted the event in partnership with the Denver Film Society to raise awareness through the 28-minute film directed by Sarah Lotfi and produced by Anastasia Cumming of how the Nazis during World War II systematically eradicated people with physical, mental and developmental disabilities along with Jews, gypsies and homosexuals.
The film features Connor Long, 20, a Louisville resident born with Down syndrome, a genetic condition that causes varying degrees of intellectual disability.
Some may not be impressed with an actor playing someone very much like themselves until they realize that Long, who was a 17-year-old Fairview High School student in Boulder during the shoot, studied with a dialect coach to speak German lines flawlessly.
His emotionally spot-on portrayal of Radek Novak also led to him winning Best Actor at the 2013 Filmstock Film Festival.
All of the action in the film takes place in May 1945 as the Allies close in on an Austrian captain who guides his company behind Russian lines to surrender to the Americans.
During this retreat, the captain takes Radek under his wing when the boy’s mother gets killed by crossfire.
Viewers later learn that the captain’s compassion and morality stem from heartache over the German’s “T4 Action Plan,” which killed his developmentally disabled sister, Hannah, earlier in the war.
Historically, the Nazi’s gassed an estimated 300,000 people with physical or mental disabilities.
Michelle Sie, whose daughter was born with Down syndrome, established the Global Down Syndrome Foundation with her family in 2009 to “significantly improve the lives of people with Down syndrome by eradicating the medical and cognitive ill effects associated with the condition.”
She explained that the film challenges prejudice behind stereotypes like “disabled,” “enemy,” or even “hero.”
Given the film’s celebrated festival reception, the director and producer hope to shoot a full-length feature and re-up Long’s contract.
You never know what those “handicappers” will do.
For more information, visit www.menschenthemovie.com and Lafayette film critic Tim Brennan’s post: http://lafayetteramblings.blogspot.com/.
Pam Mellskog can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-746-0942.