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 Made while the filmmaker was in high school himself, Focus dramatizes the feelings of a withdrawn, depressed student with untreated, possibly undiagnosed learning disabilities.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.
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
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