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Review: Emmanuel’s Gift

Emmanuel’s Gift

Sister filmmakers Lisa Lax and Nancy Stern go to West Africa to tell the story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, who bravely defied Ghana’s entrenched discrimination against the disabled by simply refusing to accept his limitations. In a country where the handicapped are either poisoned by their families, left to die in the woods, or forced to panhandle for the rest of their lives, Emmanuel’s journey emerges as a politically-charged corrective. It’s an inspirational story but the documentary’s glossy images, intrusive score, postcard-pretty shots of Ghanians playing to the camera, narration by Oprah Winfrey, and incessant talking-heads interviews work to exaggerate this emotional uplift, which gives the piece an unnaturally sustained infomercial-esque feel. But no amount of frills is able to distill the film’s heart, which unleashes a torrent of emotions when Lax and Stern reveal how Emmanuel’s crusade to improve the physical mobility of Ghana’s disabled and offer them political muscle is galvanized by the life of James E. MacLaren, a former star athlete at Yale who survived two would-be fatal accidents in the course of 10 years. Not only have MacLaren and Emmanuel persevered life’s hard knocks but also the film’s short-tempered look and sound.

Director: Lisa Lax, Nancy Stern Distributor: First Look International Running Time: 80 min Rating: NR Year: 2005 Buy: Video

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