I am genuinely grateful to have been born and raised in a country where the language is the one adopted as the "International Language". I do not mean that statement in any light or facetious manner. I feel grateful that I am lucky enough to come to another country and get by with the 60-100 word vocabulary that I have in Romanian. I know enough to exchange pleasantries, to make purchases, to order restaurant meals, and to give instructions to the taxi driver. Beyond that I must use English. I am confident that if no one spoke English here my vocabulary would be bigger than it is, but I am lucky that I haven't had to learn. I want anyone who reads this blog to know that I understand and accept this as a fortunate occurrence Lots of people the world over must learn at least one if not more languages than their first in order to get along.
What has me thinking about this degree of accommodation I am lucky to receive is the film festival Amanda and I have attended this week. One World Romania is an international human rights documentary film festival that ended today. When I initially became aware of the festival I did not pay much attention as I assumed the films would be either in Romanian or subtitled in Romanian when in other languages. They were subtitled in Romanian, but below and secondarily to the English subtitling...
At the beginning of the week I was asked by the director of Invingem Autismul, the center where Amanda volunteers if I would join her as a speaker following a documentary on a young Russian man with autism. She assured me the film would have English subtitles and so I agreed. Anton's Right Here (click on arrow to the right of the film title for a trailer) was a powerful depiction of the huge difference that environment makes in anyone's - but in this case especially in Anton's - ability to be successful in the world. When Anton was in a neuropsychiatric hospital where the doctors stated there is no such diagnosis as autism in Russia and where there was significant understaffing, he regressed in all ways. When he was taken to a farm with one on one assistance, he quickly rose to the challenge of being a productive member of the community. Both Amanda and I were able to add reactions and point out differences between Russian, Romanian, and American options for treating autism. It was great to be able to contribute in that way.
Because we went to the one film, we looked at the program and found 3 others we thought we might be interested in. While all were listed as having English subtitles, the one that was actually in English did not - unfortunate for Amanda who relies on reading captions to understand dialogue in films and on TV. Two of the films, Little World and Planet of Snail (click here to access trailers) focused on the Abilities of people often thought of as being DIS-abled. Both were worthy reminders that we are all of us limited more by our own perceptions of what can and cannot be done than by anything else. Both also focused on how the right kinds of support from the people around can make a world of difference.
Amanda and I were able to enjoy these films because we are lucky enough to have English as our first language, the language of the subtitles, and also because we have learned enough in our living here to find the theatres, buy tickets, and relax!