Mary Baldwin University’s Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement, Office of Student Life, and education department will present a free screening of the award-winning independent film Girlfriend on February 23, followed by a panel discussion.
The film follows Evan, a young man with Down syndrome, as he romantically pursues a small-town single mother who is still involved with her volatile ex-boyfriend. The film was named Best Narrative Film and Best Film at the 2011 Woods Hole Film Festival in Cape Cod and took the Grand Jury Prize at last year’s White Sands International Film Festival. Director Justin Lerner also received the Best Director nod at White Sands in 2011.
The motion picture will give the audience an opportunity to reflect on the unique social challenges and experiences by individuals with disabilities, said Mary Baldwin’s Director of Graduate Teacher Education Rachel Potter.
“It will expose the audience to the joy and bitter-sweetness of loving a person with a disability as a parent, friend, or intimate companion,” Potter said.
Following the screening, a panel of local experts will discuss a wide range of issues, including cognitive and developmental disabilities, social work, ethics, psychology, sociology, film, the economy, abusive relationships, and our own area’s struggle to provide services to adults with disabilities.
Potter will facilitate the discussion among Matt Trybus, disability services specialist at James Madison University; Brett Wills, service facilitator and advocate at Moms in Motion, LLC; Tina Martina, training and support services supervisor at Valley Community Services Board; Warren McKeen, executive director at ARC of Augusta; Patricia Devitt, director of pupil services for Augusta County Public Schools; Cindy Pachis, special education teacher in Harrisonburg; and Tim Pachis, a young man with Down syndrome and Cindy Pachis’ son.
A complementary coffee bar and brownies will also be available.
The public film screening begins at 7 p.m. inside Francis Auditorium. Mature audiences are intended for this film due to language and scenes of a sexual nature. View the trailer and read more about the film on its official website .