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> > > Amanda Lukoff: The R-Word

Film-maker Amanda Lukoff is a triplet, one of three girls. Their older sister Gabrielle was born with Down’s Syndrome. It was the experience of people’s reaction to her sister that made her want to advocate for Gabrielle. Here she shows a trailer for a documentary she is currently fundraising for: a film about the power of words and the love between siblings and the power to start a movement.

Amanda describes her first moment as an advocate for Gabrielle in first grade: “when I was 6 years old, I was asked to bring in a ‘Show and Tell’ item and decided to bring in my sister and show my classmates that there was nothing to be afraid of, that Gabrielle had hopes and dreams the same as everybody else.”

In the 70’s and 80’s the term ‘Mental Retardation’ was used by the medical profession to describe people with intellectual impairments such as Down’s Syndrome. As it’s use spread it began to be used as an insult for saying someone or something was stupid or worthless.

When Amanda Lukoff started to hear this use of the word she was more than insulted, but was also curious: “How did a medical term morph into such a derogatory, hateful word?”

And so she decided to explore this phenomenon: “Every time that word ‘retarded’ is spoken it marginalises and dehumanises an entire population of people.” 

Lukoff intends to make a documentary exploring the uses of ‘The R Word’, its effects on disabled people, their role in society, and also the effects on their families:

“It is through this ‘sibling’ lens that the film's narrative will be told. Growing up I knew one day I would combine my passion for filmmaking with the love and pride I have for my sister, and for individuals like her, and feel I am the right person to tell this story because I have first-hand experience of the power and impact of the r-word.” 

This issue is becoming more relevant in popular culture and public discourse. “But this is not just a Disability Rights issue,” says Lukoff, “this is a human rights issue. Every human being has the right to be treated with dignity and respect.”

Lukoff doesn’t want to lecture, but simply to present the arguments and create a discussion: “We just hope that we will make an impact and people will start to change the way that they think. That’s all that you can hope for.”

Lukoff has set up a fundraiser on Indiegogo

“The cool thing about the Crowfunding Campaign is that you can donate $5, or $5000, and you’re involved, regardless. That’s the cool thing about making films in this day and age. You can get in at the ground level of the making of such an important project.”

Amanda Lukoff and husband Daniel Egan founded Thorough Productions in 2010 and base operations in Washington DC.