BALTIMORE – Faith Guilbault doesn’t want pity. She just wants friendship.
The 17-year-old from Bel Air didn’t let cerebral palsy stop her from being a standout model during New York Fashion Week. It didn’t stop her from horse riding, sled hockey, or even skydiving on a regular basis.
The happy maker will enable the world to learn more about the realities of her daily life with disabilities through a documentary film “Faith’s World” that she directed.
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The 27-minute documentary, which premiered on Maryland public television in April, will air to 1.8 million American teachers in 155 cities this spring. It will then be shown in 150 countries around the world. The film, with an introduction by actress Ashley Judd, comes with an educational toolkit.
“I feel very good. I feel like I’m doing something that will be dear to people, ”said Guilbault, who is a junior at Maryland School for the Blind. “I thought it was an inspiring movie. I wanted to raise awareness out there. “
Holly Carter, founder and CEO of BYkids, a New York City-based nonprofit that produced the documentary, believes audiences will fall in love with the Guilbaults.
“Faith is open, joyful, thoughtful, generous, and comes with the most amazing family,” Carter said. “We have her mother, her father and even her brother in the film. This is an amazing, strong, optimistic family. “
The last 13 documentaries from Carter’s company have covered topics from race to climate change.
“I think the intent is to humanize difficult topics so people can talk about them, to help American youth think about these big topics,” Carter said. “Because it is personable, it can be implemented.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are an estimated 61 million people in the United States with a disability.
“One in six Americans has a disability,” said Carter. “It’s a huge group. My job was to humanize them. “
Carter discovered Guilbault while modeling at a fashion show in New York. She was immediately impressed with the teen’s energy, fearlessness, and willingness to try new things.
“The resilience of faith shines through. When we chose Faith the day before the Runway of Dreams Fashion Show (an annual show featuring models with disabilities), we didn’t know she was doing skydiving and horseback riding. She’s an adventurer, ”said Carter.
“I think we did something really powerful with this movie,” Carter said. “It’s cute, but it packs a punch.”
Although Guilbault couldn’t hold the camera, she worked closely with filmmaker Joyce Chopra, who oversaw her.
“We discussed every scene with her,” said Chopra, who also oversaw other youth directors in earlier documentaries.
Chopra said he was attracted to Guilbault’s presence.
“She has such a lively mind. It gives off a kind of warmth, ”said Chopra. “I learned a lot from Faith. I hope the audience gets away with the same result. “
The documentary was shot over the course of a month in 2019 and features scenes from New York City for Fashion Week and then at the Guilbault family’s Bel Air home.
Guilbault’s mother, Karen, said she was curious to see how many people her daughter would “touch”.
She added, “There are things that she has to work twice as hard on. She doesn’t let anything stop her. “
Depending on how far she has to travel, Guilbault uses either a walker, a wheelchair stand or a house stick. In addition to cerebral palsy, she has epilepsy and cortical visual impairment, a condition in which vision is impaired due to a neurological problem affecting the visual part of the brain.
What’s next for Guilbault? She would like to have a service dog and live alone at the age of 22. She also wants to act on a reality show, be a writer and work in a daycare center.
Above all, however, she wants to educate others “and let people know that people are different and that is fine. I want to raise awareness out there. “
© 2021 The Baltimore Sun.
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