America Reframed: Deej

America Reframed: Deej

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 9:00pm - 10:00pm

A nonspeaking young man dreams of autistic civil rights.

Deej, airing Monday, November 13 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV, offers an insider view of autism and challenges us all to live inclusion. Abandoned by his birth parents and unable to speak for himself, DJ Savarese ("Deej") found not only a loving family but also a life in words, which he types on a text-to-voice synthesizer. As he makes his way through high school and dreams of college, he confronts the terrors of his past, obstacles to inclusion, and the sometimes paralyzing beauty of his own senses. In his advocacy on behalf of other nonspeaking autistics, he embraces filmmaking and poetry, and discovers what having a voice can truly mean. Deej repeats Sunday, November 19 at 2:30 p.m. on WXXI-TV.

In this first-of-its kind collaboration between a veteran filmmaker and a nonspeaking autistic, Robert Rooy and DJ share editorial control as they navigate the challenges of representing autism. Deej, the result of this often difficult partnership, is a story told largely from the inside, by DJ -- not by his parents or autism experts or even the camera. At its core, Deej reflects the level of participation that disability rights advocates insist upon: "Nothing about us without us."

Deej graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Oberlin College in May 2017 with a double major in Anthropology and Creative Writing. An ASAN Scholar Fellow, he was also the recipient of Oberlin's William Battrick Poetry Fellowship and their Comfort Starr Award for meritorious scholarly work in Anthropology. As a writer, he has published poems and prose in The Iowa Review, Seneca Review, Prospect, Disability Studies Quarterly, StoneCanoe, Wordgatherings.com and Voices for Diversity and Social Justice: Literary Education Anthology. A self-advocate and national social activist, he consults and presents at conferences across the country, working to make literacy-based education, communication, and inclusive lives a reality for all nonspeaking people.

This film is presented as part of MOVE TO INCLUDE, a partnership between WXXI and the Golisano Foundation designed to stimulate community dialogue about the perspectives of people with physical and intellectual disabilities. Its mission is to ultimately build a community that celebrates abilities.

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