« The Down », a thai documentary

To read on The Nation website:

Positive pictures of Down Syndrome

PARINYAPORN PAJEE   October 13, 2015

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Five incredible young Thais are spotlighted in the new documentary film « The Down »

They’ve drawn embarrassed stares, looks of pity or simply been ignored, but now the lives of youngsters born with the genetic disorder trisomy 21, or Down syndrome, are coming into the spotlight and for all the right reasons.

Sutthiphot « Bank » Kanoknak, Kamonporn « Pan » Vachiramon, twins Onnipa « Orm » and Atiya « Un » Kanjanasiri and Sirinluck « Beer » Chalat, all in their 20s, are the main characters in « The Down ». The documentary, which has followed the lives of all five over the course of a year, is directed and produced by Wongthanong Chainarongsingha, founder of A Day magazine and the managing director of A Day Poets Publishing group.

Sutthiphot works in a branch of Uniqlo. He loves karaoke, is always punctual and is saving up to buy a new home for his parents. Kamonporn, a graduate of Bangkok University, works for AIS customer service. Twins Onnipa and Atiya won the top prize for bocce in the Special Olympics. And Sirinluck will be a familiar face to patrons at Starbucks on Soi Lang Suan. A hard worker, she uses her entire salary to support her family and help out with her siblings’ school fees.

Wongthanong, who narrates the documentary, tells XP that he was inspired to make the film during a visit to Italy.

« I saw many people with Down’s and was impressed by how they were simply part of society. No one paid them particular attention. There was none of the giggles behind hands that we so often observe here in Thailand, » he says.

Part of the problem, he continues, is that Thais tend to know very little about people who are different from them. « We are very insular. We stick to our circle of friends, those with whom we share similar interests, lifestyle or social status. When we do venture out of our cocoon, it is to pander to those who have higher status in the hope it will bring us some benefit.

« Those who have a lower status than us, we automatically push away. They include people with special needs as well as workers from neighbouring countries. It’s not just prejudice but ignorance about those who do not interest us, » Wongthanong says.

Wongthanong is the first to admit that before starting work on the film, his knowledge of Down syndrome was zero. « The only person I could think of was [the late comedian] Sayun Doksadao.

The genetic disorder causes those born with Down’s to have a common physical appearance regardless of race or nationality – low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes and flat noses. Cognitive delays vary from mild to severe and IQ tends to be lower. Yet despite those obvious disadvantages, many improve their abilities and skills to the extent that they can integrate with so-called « normal » people at school, in the workplace and in leisure activities.

Yet the vast majority of Thais still believe those born with Down syndrome can’t live a normal life and their families need to take care of them forever, which is not only untrue but also incredibly short sighted. (…)

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