If you haven't already seen the stand-out documentary, "Darius Goes West: The Roll of His Life
" at the Cleveland International Film Festival, go now. Today. Immediately. (It's playing at 4:15 p.m. at Tower City).
The movie tells the story of Darius Weems, a hilarious, sweet-faced, 15-year-old who was born with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, the number one genetic killer of children in the world. The disorder destroys all the muscles in the body, and usually kills victims by the time they reach their late teens and early 20s. Darius already lost an older brother to the disorder, but he's not ready to give up the fight.
Raised in the housing projects in Athens, Georgia, Darius had never been out of his hometown. Two summers ago, his friend Logan Smalley decided that was unacceptable. So Smalley and 10 others raised thousands of dollars to transport Darius to California, in hopes that he could get his wheelchair blinged out on MTV's Pimp My Ride. They documented every RV breakdown and bathroom joke along the way.
After the film's showing last night, we ran into the crew members wandering through Tower City looking for beer and food. We led them to Flannery's Pub downtown, and commenced to find out the real story behind the documentary.
Smalley, a boyish looking special-ed major, talked humbly about the project and his poverty. All proceeds from the movie go to Charley's Fund
, a non-profit trying to find a cure for the disorder. The crew relies on donations and corporate sponsors to get to film festivals.
Becoming instant movie stars hasn't gone to their heads. They're still the same old Georgia boys. "We nicknamed the RV 'The Cherry Butt Hole' because we were so fond of it," says John Hadden, the only member who actually wants to make films for a living. — Lisa Rab and Rebecca Meiser