Film Review by: Julia Seel

Intelligent Lives follows three adults with intellectual disabilities, (Naieer, Naomie, and Micah), through the later part of their education and the beginnings of their job hunts.  All three stories are based on one idea: people should treat people with respect, regardless of their IQ score.

Naomie wants a beauty job.  She has the largest group of visible supporters – several people appear in Intelligent Lives as her job counselors and trainers.  Her community speaks with her simply, and repeats what she says to make sure they understand. Naomie is smiling for the majority of the documentary, especially when she’s with her brother. By the end of Intelligent Lives, Naomie finishes an internship at a beauty school and expects a job offer.  We do not hear Naomie speak for herself very often; she speaks to answer questions, and does not appear to spontaneously talk.

Naieer paints and writes poetry.  He attends an inclusive school and receives understanding attention from the faculty. His family wants everything for him that he can possibly have, including an arts degree.  They are afraid that how the world sees Naieer may result in something negative, but they refuse to let that contain him.  Naieer himself breaks into a tremendous smile when he talks about the expanded media opportunities and art studios in college.  Intelligent Lives mostly shows Naieer interacting with his art teacher, painting and preparing his portfolio for college applications.

Micah graduates college and courts a girlfriend.  He speaks energetically about people with disabilities advocating for themselves, especially around medical and financial autonomy.  He meets weekly with a group of friends to receive guidance, and he checks Facebook captions with his roommates after asking individuals whether he may post their pictures.  Micah educates those around him about himself, about the history of people with disabilities in America, and about how to make society more accessible.  Most of the documentary shows Micah with a group of friends, fielding questions about his future.

Intelligent Lives wants the viewer to consider other people more complexly than by IQ points.  Conventionally, the IQ test looks for a very specific sort of intelligence whereas according to the documentary the theory of multiple intelligences (including social, visual, logical, and musical) has been gaining confirmation since the 1990s.  If-or since- different people have different intelligences, all people should be educated according to their particular intelligence.  The documentary does not address the financial and communal reorganization needed for this worthy change, but Intelligent Lives does show how three individual lives are immensely bettered by caring environments and how the community is brightened by these three people’s inclusion.

In Select Theaters 9/21/18

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