Nate von Zumwalt, Editorial Manager
Filmmakers frequently treat the prospect of standing in front of a camera, as opposed to behind it, as a dubious assignment. So what happens when a director not only turns the lens on himself, but does so to capture his most vulnerable moments? That’s the daunting task that director Jason DaSilva chose to dispense upon himself after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at age 25. The result of his laborious efforts is When I Walk, an unflinching portrait of DaSilva’s physical deterioration suffused with his contagious fortitude and resilient spirit.
When I Walk screened in the Documentary Premieres category at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and opens in theaters Friday, October 25. Here are 5 Things You Should Know with director Jason DaSilva.
1. You’ve described you reticence when it came to your early MS symptoms. Following the diagnosis, how long did it take for you to arrive at the decision to make When I Walk?
It took me two years to decide. I had a vague notion of it early on but didn’t consciously make a decision to pursue a feature documentary until two years after my diagnosis.
2. This documentary is unique in its dedication to transparency, particularly in terms of portraying your physical deterioration. What was your greatest reservation about documenting that process?
My reservation at the beginning was that I just wanted to continue making films on other topics and I was worried that it was just not a very interesting subject for an audience. Once I got started I didn’t really have many reservations.
3. Alice coming into your life represents a really remarkable subplot in this film, and her presence feels like a microcosm for the “mystery of fate” that you refer to. Did she, in a sense, validate that notion?
When Alice and I wrote that section we were really just thinking about how everyone’s lives can be so unexpected. We were also thinking what the story of my life would be within the context of my family and ancestors. Alice coming into my life I guess did validate that in a sense. Our relationship was so unexpected—it felt like a turn of fate.
4. On both a technical physical level, this film required significant assistance from others. Were there times when that physical reliance threatened to derail the project?
Yes, it was frustrating having so many different people working with me to film me. Everyone from my mother to my brother to my professional cinematographer friends was involved in shooting. In using all these novice shooters, we had a lot of troubles—often with sound not being right or losing footage in the download process. That was excruciating at times. It was so frustrating I wasn’t sure I would go on with it.
5. Ultimately, what are your hopes for how this film resonates with audiences, no matter their personal afflictions?
For me this film is really more a story about a life than a social issue film. We constructed it to feel like a narrative for that reason. I just want people to relate to it to as a story that is interesting and compelling to watch. And I do hope that for people with disabilities or struggles with illness similar to mine, it will be cathartic for them to see their story on film.