Dir: Wei-Shan Yu | Centrepiece Presentation | Taiwan | 2015 | 90 minutes
Nov 7 4:15 pm | International Village
She’s a certified black belt, a pilot, a college graduate, a motivational speaker, and an international advocate for disabled people. Clearly, being born without arms hasn’t deterred Jessica Cox from living a life bursting with accomplishments.
Directed by the Emmy Award winning filmmaker Nick Spark, Right Footed follows the heartening story of Jessica Cox. Her extraordinary life is chronicled in the documentary over a period of two years, detailing her fight for independence and acceptance.
Right Footed begins by exploring Jessica’s complicated childhood. The documentary portrays Jessica’s personal difficulties honestly and empathetically. It’s a fascinating look into a life of adversity and a quest for normalcy for people with disabilities.
With the influence of her mother, Jessica grows into a relentlessly positive and outgoing woman. Jessica challenges society’s notion that disabled people are restricted, dependant, and unable to pursue normal lives. She becomes not only the world’s first licensed armless pilot, but the first armless black belt in the American Taekwondo Association. Eventually, she finds love and gets married.
The footage of Jessica going about her daily activities is initially fascinating. Throughout the documentary however, we become normalized to Jessica using her feet to cook, apply makeup, and drive. It’s a testament to the fact that many disabled people can indeed be independent and lead fulfilling lives.
Eventually, Jessica ventures abroad to spread her message of positivity. The hardships and triumphs Jessica encountered in America as a disabled woman, are juxtaposed nicely with the struggles of disabled people abroad. As a Filipino-American, going back to the Philippines to act as a mentor for children in the wake of a natural disaster was especially meaningful. The resilience of her mother’s homeland inspires Jessica. Later, when an opportunity from Handicap International presents itself, she jumps at the chance. Jessica later naturally transitions into political advocacy in America.
Jessica’s story is a beautiful story of healing and finding power in the face of adversity. It’s an illustration of the remarkable capacity of resilience in all human beings. Catch Right Footed at the 19th Annual Vancouver Asian Film Festival on November 7th.