What would you do if you suddenly fell down and couldn't get back up? Filmmaker Jason DaSilva — who found himself stricken with multiple sclerosis and unable to walk at age 25 — made a movie about it.
A stunning tale of determination in the face of a heartbreaking and crippling diagnosis, the new documentary "When I Walk" is a show-all, tell-all expose. The film documents six years of DaSilva's everyday struggles as he succumbs ever deeper into a disease that robs him of the use of his legs and severely diminishes his control of his motor skills.
"I just thought that some of the things I was going through were things that needed to be shown and talked about," said DaSilva in an exclusive interview with Yahoo Movies. "I could tell that I was living a story that needed to be told, which led me to turn the camera on myself."
DaSilva was already an accomplished documentarian when he was diagnosed with MS in 2005, with one of his documentary shorts, "Olivia's Puzzle," being screened at Sundance in 2003. However, continuing his filmmaking career with his condition wasn't easy. "When I Walk," which premiered earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, was shot over the course of several years, and DaSilva spent a few of those wondering if he should just pull the plug on the whole endeavor.
"Around year three, the film was not leaving — it just kept going and going and I was getting worse — so all the way from there until about year six were my darkest times when I didn't want to see the film through," said DaSilva. "I still just filmed everything but it was really difficult. I'm glad I got it in the can, but there were years where I felt like that."
'When I Walk' filmmaker Jason DaSilva (Photo: Long Shot Factory)
DaSilva had his mom to help him keep the fires burning — and keep perspective. "When you feel down, think of other countries, other people," she tells her son in the film's trailer, challenging him to really think about what it would mean if he didn't make this film: "Quit the film, right now, how do you feel?"
"I'm not going to quit the film," says DaSilva. And he didn't. And it's a good thing, too, because otherwise he might not have ever met his future wife.
At his mother's urging, DaSilva went to an MS support group, where he met Alice Cook, a woman whose mother was also living with MS. He asked her out, and soon the two were an item. Sure, their relationship has its challenges, but every once in a while, love really does indeed conquer all.
"Do you ever wish you were with someone able-bodied?" asks DaSilva in the film's trailer. "Yeah," says Alice, honestly and without hesitation. "But I wish it was you who was able-bodied."
It's here we realize that "When I Walk" is not only an inspiring personal journey but a very moving love story as well — one that had certain elements DaSilva was a little hesitant about becoming public knowledge.
"There's a scene where my wife, Alice and I ... were talking about sleeping together and, you know, just being intimate," DaSilva confessed in our interview. "That was hard for me to keep in the film because there are secret things you just don't share with the world."
His movie is ready to share with the world, though, as "When I Walk" will be hitting theaters this fall. At the end of this journey lasting more than six years, we asked DaSilva what advice he would give himself if he could go back to the beginning of the production.
"It's gonna be a long road," he said with a laugh. "That's the advice I would give. And to stay patient. I mean, I did all those things — stay patient, stay courageous. But I would definitely let myself know that it's a long road ahead. And that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel."
"When I Walk" opens in New York City on October 25 and in Los Angeles on November 1, after which it will expand to other cities.
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