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Down Syndrome Film Festival is coming to Burnaby this March

Innovative documentary is among features at first-of-its-kind festival observing World Down Syndrome Day in the city.
The 2023 Down Syndrome Film Festival will kick off World Down Syndrome Day celebrations in Burnaby on March 18.

The Down Syndrome Resource Foundation (DSRF) is set to mark World Down Syndrome Day on March 21 with a first-of-its-kind film festival in Burnaby.

The inaugural Down Syndrome Film Festival will take place on March 18 at the city's James Cowan theatre.

The festival will feature a Burnaby premiere of the heartwarming new award-winning National Film Board of Canada documentary, Lay Down Your Heart, directed by Marie Clements.

Written by Niall McNeil, an artist with Down Syndrome, in collaboration with Marie Clements, the documentary provides an intimate look into the artist's limitless imagination, which drives him in his quest for close human connection, and introduces people whom McNeil embraces as family members — people who may not be blood relations, but are nonetheless linked to the artist in heart and mind.

The 2022 documentary about the Vancouver-based theatre artist and writer was named the winner of the Audience Award for the Portraits program at the 2022 Vancouver International Film Festival, where it premiered.

The colourful and imaginative documentary celebrates a local artist who has succeeded on his own terms.

“He creates his own world. He’s created this family too,” one of his family members exclaims in the film. At one point McNeil is asked, “Do you feel it in your heart that it’s real?he replies, “Yeah.”

The screening will be preceded by short films including Raising Ava Rose, directed by Richmond-based filmmaker Jordan Macken, which centres around a family's experience of a raising a child with Down Syndrome.

That short will be followed by a 14-minute documentary called Minding Your Own Business: Entrepreneurs with Down Syndrome, a DSRF production.

The documentary is produced by DSRF’s Glen Hoos and director Matthew Hoos, and will provide a glimpse of three small businesses in the Lower Mainland — The Granola Kid, Lovebirds by Anu and Through Andrew’s Eyes — owned and operated by entrepreneurs with Down Syndrome.

Festival attendees can meet and greet the stars and creators of these films and take part in a Q&A. They can also get an exclusive sneak peek at a new short film, Chicken.

Tickets can be purchased at DSRF's website. For people with disabilities, tickets are free of cost, but the tickets are required to be reserved in advance.

Down Syndrome Film Festival 2023

When: March 18, 2023; 1:30 p.m..

Where: James Cowan Theatre (6450 Deer Lake Ave., Burnaby)

Cost: Free for people with disabilities; $7-15 for those without disabilities.