The following article was written by Marianne Grittani as part of a series of articles about filmmakers coming to the Salt Spring Film Festival on Feb 28-Mar 2. Jason DaSilva’s mother Marianne D’Souza and brother Leigh DaSilva (also director/producer of the film) will be on hand to lead a discussion following the film.
Jason Da Silva / When I Walk
Director Jason DaSilva has been a prolific filmmaker since 1996, travelling the world making documentary films. He has directed 4 short films Olivia’s Puzzle, A Song For Daniel, Twins of Mankala and First Steps. He’s also made two feature length films, Lest We Forget and When I Walk. Olivia’s Puzzle premiered at the 2003 Sundance Festival and qualified for an Academy Award. Three of his films have had national broadcasts on PBS, HBO and CBC. He also produced Shocking and Awful, a film installation on the anti-Iraq war movement, exhibited at the 2006 Whitney Biennial. Each one of these works advanced Jason’s objective to give voice to those on the periphery of society.
In 2006, Jason took a break from filmmaking to earn his MFA degree in Applied Media Arts at Emily Carr University. He recently produced and directed an Op-Doc (opinion documentary) for the New York Times called The Long Wait, published in January 2013. When I Walk was an Official Selection at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and won Best Canadian Feature at Hot Docs 2013.
Jason was well on his way pursuing his filmmaking goals when his life changed, and changed drastically, a few years ago when he was diagnosed with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. All too suddenly, he now had to face that he couldn’t even brush his teeth without help. Turning the camera on himself, he documents a seven-year struggle with a disease that has no cure and a world filled with increasing obstacles.
It all started on a family vacation. In 2006, the 25-year-old, vital, handsome, talented DaSilva was on a beach with his family when, suddenly, he fell down and couldn’t get back up. Doctors told him he had multiple sclerosis, and it could lead to loss of vision and muscle control, as well as a myriad of other problems. Even though he exercised more and did everything he could to try to keep his muscles strong, the problem got worse. And it got worse very quickly. Jason’s mother Marianne reminded him that he was a fortunate privileged North American kid who had the opportunity to pursue the things he loved most—art and filmmaking. So Jason picked up the camera and began filming the difficult decline of his body and the miracles he encountered along the way.
He applied for and got a film grant and set off to India in search of something that could make him better. His time there, as well as all the aspects of his journey, is documented in When I Walk.
The result is a very personal, ambitious and genuine view of a life that takes nothing for granted. Not only are Da Silva’s daily challenges recorded, he shows his physical struggle with trying to construct this documentary. Nothing is kept hidden. The film is an emotional and inspirational documentary whose creative engine is its young filmmaker’s determination to live and his ability to make sense of being plagued by a devastating disease through the art of cinematic storytelling.
“The work I do, this app (AXS Map, a crowdsourcing platform that allows people around the world to rate businesses for accessibility) and the film, is about changing the face of disability. The civil rights movement, the gay and lesbian movement, even the feminist movement all gained traction. But for some reason, the disability movement kind of slowed down,” says DaSilva. “I’m trying to find a way to bring it back.”
He currently lives and works in Brooklyn New York. His mother Marianne D’Souza and his brother Leigh Da Silva will be in attendance at the SS Film Festival.