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photo Focus
By Anthony Levenson

There are more than 15 million people living with learning disabilities in the United States. For teenagers already struggling with the normal stresses of adolescence, the combination can be paralyzing. Made while the filmmaker was in high school himself, Focus dramatizes the feelings of a withdrawn, depressed student with untreated, possibly undiagnosed learning disabilities. In an acting tour de force, Levenson embodies each of the multiple voices battling to control his behavior and demanding his return to participation in schoolwork and in life. One character is professional and “reasonable,” one hostile and aggressive, another passive and almost silent. As they argue over the teen’s lack of connection, one faint voice manages to say, “He needs help. He’s depressed,” but the cry for help is shrugged off.

Are these the young man’s inner voices or the real voices of the people in his life: parents, teachers, school counselors, peers? Students — and not only those with learning disabilities — will bring their own experiences and feelings to the discussion of this brief, provocative trigger film. When the student “wakes up,” he finds himself in the middle of a lecture on motivational theory, where the instructor is describing an experiment on “negative reinforcement.” Sent to the principal’s office, he packs his books and leaves in an ongoing cycle of discouragement and frustration.

7 minutes
© 2003
Purchase $129.00 DVD
Order No. QA-484
ISBN (DVD) 1-57295-937-1

Awards & Conference Screenings
International Dyslexia Association Annual Conference
Honorable Mention, Columbus International Film & Video Festival
Honorable Mention, Picture This Film Festival

Related Films
A Mind of Your Own: It's been estimated that every classroom has two or three kids with learning disabilities. This video profiles four courageous kids who don't let learning difficulties hold them back or get them down.

Crystal Fear, Crystal Clear: Methamphetamine, or crystal meth, has become the drug of choice for teenagers in small towns across North America. Highly addictive, cheap, and easy to get, it can cause psychosis, permanent brain damage, and even death. This program documents a year in the lives of three families devastated by this powerful, seductive drug.

Edges of Perception: Eleven-year-old Jessica has Stargardt's, an inherited eye disease. She is legally blind, but with the calm, determined support of her parents and teachers she attends a regular classroom, plays soccer, and is a serious runner. She wants to meet her inspiration, Marla Runyan, a legally blind Olympic runner who also has Stargardt's.

The Other Side of Blue: Eight to ten percent of teens may suffer from clinical depression, and many of these young people may attempt suicide. This provocative video focuses on its nature, causes, symptoms, and consequences, and on how the social stigma associated with depression blocks some teens from seeking help.


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