Pixar’s Luca takes uncommon step of portraying a personality’s disability, with out making it a defining characteristic-Leisure Information , Firstpost
The authenticity portrayed in films like Luca only arises when people from the communities represented on the screen also work behind the camera.
In a small fishing boat on the glittering Mediterranean Sea, Alberto Scorfano’s eyes land on Massimo Marcovaldo’s right arm, which ends at his shoulder. Massimo catches him staring and Alberto’s eyes pop out. Massimo looks at the sleeve of his shirt, which is pinned up with a fishhook.
“A sea monster ate it,” he growls.
“Hm? What? ”Alberto gasps.
Massimo relaxes into a laugh. “Mom, no. That’s how I was born. “
He pulls in his fishing net, clamps a lost piece of driftwood between his teeth and slices it out of the net with his left arm.
“Whoa”, Alberto exhales.
This scene, which appears roughly in the middle of Luca, Pixar’s latest film (streaming on Disney +), takes the rare step of portraying a character with a limb difference – without making them a defining trait. The story takes place in the fictional coastal town of Portorosso on the Italian Riviera and tells the story of Luca Paguro (voiced by Jacob Tremblay) and Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer), both young sea monsters who explore the human world.
In Portorosso, Luca and Alberto meet Giulia (Emma Berman), a red-haired outsider who is determined to win the city’s annual triathlon.
Enter Massimo (Marco Barricelli) – Giulia’s single father – an imposing fisherman who sings along with arias on the radio while he cuts off fish heads for dinner. At first glance, his stature and fish spears intimidate the two boys. After the boat scene, however, the tide begins to turn: Luca and Alberto find their way into Massimo’s big heart.
Since the movie was streamed last month, the internet has praised Massimo’s character for skillfully showing a limb difference on screen. The filmmakers said the decision that the fisherman was born with one arm was very deliberate.
“We really thought long and hard about how we could achieve a representation that was true to the place and time,” said director Enrico Casarosa. “When the Massimo idea came up, I think we came up with the idea pretty quickly.”
The film is set in post-war Italy, where Casarosa spent his childhood, and originally the director imagined that Massimo, modeled on the anti-fascist journalist Italo Calvino, fought the Italian resistance during World War II. Maybe he lost his arm in battle, thought Casarosa.
Or maybe he was born that way. Looking at the details of Massimo’s character, the Luca team – including Casarosa and producer Andrea Warren – decided to consult with disability rights activist and filmmaker Jim LeBrecht.
“It was a really rich conversation,” said LeBrecht, a co-director of the Oscar-nominated documentary Crip Camp, which was released last year.
Together they concluded that the line “This is how I was born” felt right. Like Luca and Alberto, Massimo was born differently. The fisherman was skillful with his limbs all his life and remained a loved, respected and vital part of his community.
“Let’s go beyond these tragic stories, these ancient tropics where someone with a disability only appears in a story when it is about their disability,” said LeBrecht. “And let’s do what we’ve done with other marginalized communities over the years and just say, ‘Let’s look, we’re part of the fabric of society.'”
LeBrecht was born with spina bifida, a disease of the spinal cord, and is now in a wheelchair.
Crip Camp accompanies him and other former summer campers from Camp Jened in New York State, which was created for youth with disabilities, years later through their struggle for accessibility laws.
“Jim shared some very difficult stories with people responding to his physical presence and asking children,” Warren said. “But sometimes there is this interaction with children who look or ask themselves.”
These stories helped shape Massimo’s response as Alberto responded to his disability. And it’s not an uncommon experience for people with limb differences.
Sheriauna Haase, 14, saw Luca on the day of publication when she and her family visited Niagara Falls for Father’s Day. (Her two brothers, ages 4 and 5, had been demanding to see it all day.)
The aspiring high school student and dancer was born without her left hand. She immediately noticed the fishing boat scene and laughed at the line “A sea monster ate it”. Sometimes she finds her own answers to “What happened to your arm?”
“If they stared I’d say, ‘Yeah, I actually got into a shark attack. My arm was bitten by a shark, ”said Haase. “And after that I feel bad because the look on their faces is so shocked and scared. ‘Oh my god, I’m so sorry.’ And I say, ‘No, I’m kidding, I’m kidding. I was just born that way. ‘”
Representation is important to Haase. And with nearly 2 million people living in the United States without a limb, Hollywood is starting to take notice. But there’s a fine line between organic representation and forced tokenization, as Warren, the producer, pointed out.
“You can’t tick every box on every movie,” she said. “It has to be authentic to make sense. That connection and that recognition won’t happen if it feels like it’s some kind of symbolic addition, something that’s been pushed into it. “
But the authenticity portrayed in films like Luca only arises when people from the communities represented on the screen also work behind the camera. Every week, LeBrecht hears stories from and about the disabled community that could make for engaging television and film.
“The industry needs to make the same diversity and inclusion efforts that it has made for other marginalized communities towards the disabled community,” LeBrecht said. “It’s not a wish. It’s not a charity. It’s good business. “
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