EXCLUSIVE: The story of the disabled pioneer Sylvia Flexer is set for the big screen.
Ben Lewin, director of The Sessions and The Catcher Was a Spy, is to write and direct a feature film for Keshet Studios and White Lodge Productions.
Sylvia and the President is the true story of a marginalized group of people and their struggle for equality. At the age of 21, the outspoken flexer, who walked with the help of crutches, was elected President of the League of the Physically Disabled. It was the height of the Great Depression and, like Sylvia, the majority of the members were affected by polio.
After their efforts to expose the New York government’s discrimination against disabled workers, Flexer and 34 other members of the League rode into Washington in a pickup truck all night to influence President Roosevelt – who is still publicly demonstrating the extent of his own disability hid – and staged the very first sit-in strike in a government building.
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The feature film is produced by Keshet Studios, the company behind the Sundance films The Sound of Silence and Save Yourselves! and White Lodge Productions in association with Such Much Films.
Lewin, who directed with Toni Collette and Dakota Fanning Please Stand By, The Sessions with Helen Hunt, and The Catcher Was a Spy with Paul Rudd and Paul Giamatti, will be the screenwriter and director.
Mandy Tagger Brockey and Adi Ezroni from Keshet Studios are producing with Judi Levine (Falling for Figaro) and Danielle Avissar. The film is directed by Peter Traugott from Keshet Studios, Alon Strutzman from Keshet International, Avi Nir from Keshet Media Group and Dr. Ori Allon produced by White Lodge Productions as Executive Producer.
Ben Lewin said: “I am proud to be working with Keshet Studios on a topic of such social importance and emotional resonance. At the center is a stunning young heroine who competed against the cripple-in-chief Franklin D. Roosevelt himself. Like Sylvia Flexer, I grew up with polio and understand on a very personal level her hatred of charity, her relentlessness and her need for justice. I can’t help but have the feeling that this story and I belong together – that we are meant for each other. “
Peter Traugott, President of Keshet Studios added: “At Keshet Studios, we have always been drawn to engaging stories that are not only entertaining but also cover important topics, stories with potential for positive change. At a time when ableism is still debated and fighting for equal rights for people with disabilities, this real-life story retelling the birth of the disability movement here in the United States feels like it needs to be brought to the screen, and we look forward to making this a reality with Ben, Judi and Danielle together with White Lodge Productions. “
“White Lodge Productions was founded with a mission to create compelling content that would resonate. The determination of this relatively small group to fight against social self-expression and their decision to take their future into their own hands is simply inspiring. So it is a privilege to shed light on the courage and perseverance of the people behind the disability rights movement, ”said Dr. Ori Allon.