The Grown-Ups, a Chilean film about adults with Down syndrome

To read on Salon website:

For those living with Down syndrome, middle age brings on new set of challenges

In POV film set in Chile, « The Grown-Ups, » friends are faced with a society that marginalizes them as disabled

Each time my children pass through certain milestones — their first steps, their first time riding a bike, their first day of school — I’m reminded of their burgeoning independence and eventual flight from the coop. Before I know it, they’ll be off to college or finding their first apartment.

These are the markers of growth and adulthood that elude the main subjects of “The Grown-Ups,” Chilean filmmaker Maite Alberdi’s third feature documentary airing on PBS’ POV series on Labor Day. Following a school for middle-aged adults with Down syndrome, the film is a poignant look at conscious adults and the barriers that older people with disabilities often face when trying to live their fullest lives.  And as with her past films,“The Grown-Ups” is crafted with creativity and humor.

The film follows several characters, including Anita, a restless dreamer who imagines life outside the school, and her boyfriend, Andrés, sweetly devoted and sensitive to his girlfriend’s needs. Their love will touch any viewer, but the obstacles they face are sober reminders of the limitations imposed on adults with developmental disabilities. When Andrés wants to propose to Anita, for example, they are told that their union would never be recognized in Chile. Or when Anita enters menopause and considers adoption, she finds this would be strictly restricted under state law.

Through these difficult scenes, Alberdi treats each film subject with sensitivity and humanity. The adults she focuses on are remarkable on their own, each with his or her own hopes and desires for the future. From their happiest moments to their most tragic,“The Grown-Ups” shows us the depth and richness of these characters’ lives.

You can watch the full film, “The Grown-Ups,” on POV Monday, Sept. 4, at 10 p.m. (check local listings) on your local PBS station or online at pov.org/video.

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Synopsis to read on Letterboxd website:

Anita, Rita, Ricardo and Andrés have been attending a school for children with Down syndrome for 40 years. After all this time, they are starting to tire of this safe, familiar environment. Now over 45 years old, some of them feel that working in the school bakery is no longer a challenge. They also yearn for freedom on a more personal level. Anita and Andrés are in love but still live with their families. They dream of finding a quiet place to be alone together, and they want to get married and raise a family. Sadly, the society they live in is not equipped to cater to their desire for more independence. In spite of the training they receive on becoming “responsible adults,” all four of them remain dependent on others to make decisions for them, much to their frustration.

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