Crip Camp (2020)

crip camp poster 2020 movie
9.0 Overall Score

Good reminder of the power of the people

The fight is never-ending

Movie Info

Movie Name: Crip Camp

Studio: Higher Ground Productions

Genre(s): Documentary

Release Date(s):  January 23, 2020 (Sundance)/March 25, 2020 (US)

MPAA Rating: R

crip camp camp jened interviews

Kids being kids

At the foot of Hunter Mountain in the Catskills in New York, a special camp existed.  Camp Jened was founded in 1951 with the idea that the camp could be a destination for campers with disabilities.  The counter culture movement changed Camp Jened even more and got the campers and counselors thinking about how to make life better for the campers when they weren’t at camp.  With few amenities built to accommodate people with disabilities, the campers of Camp Jened began to demand the rights they deserved.  Starting a moment and joining other people with disabilities, what started out as a summer escape helped change the world.

Directed by Nicole Newnham and James Lebrecht, Crip Camp (or the longer title of Crip Camp:  A Disability Revolution) is a Netflix documentary produced by the Obama production company Higher Ground Productions.  The film was released at Sundance and then premiered on Netflix on March 25, 2020 to positive reviews.  The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

crip camp interviews washington dc

From camp, to protests, to Washington, DC

People with disabilities are a taboo…it has to be said.  People are uncomfortable talking about it and as a result it becomes uncomfortable for the people who are being talked (or not talked about).  Crip Camp tells its story through interviews and news stories recorded at the time and new interviews and footage.  With a lack of understand, Crip Camp is a movie that benefits those who watch it simply because it tries to demystify the taboo and present people with disabilities as people…instead of the lump term “disabled people”.

The movie starts by demonstrating how Camp Jened really provided a haven for people who felt ostracized sometimes within their own families.  Everyone there understood and if they didn’t understand, they were there to learn.  People had a voice and a say and it was what many consider “normality” for people whose lives were often anything but normal.  They do things that campers do and in the spirit of the 1960s and late 1970s, love was rather free there (leading to an awkward outbreak).

crip camp protests disabilities act

A moments with backing power

The idea that a person only feel this way a few weeks of a year led to demands that people living with disabilities shouldn’t have to go to camp to feel “normal”…something that was relatively unheard of.  The documentary does a nice job showing how the camp led certain members to demand more from the government and force themselves to be recognized through sit-in, fasting, and outward confrontation which eventually (after years and years) led to a relatively enforced American with Disabilities Act.  It spans from the 1970s to the 1990s and shows how slow something takes that people probably see now as so basic.

crip camp jened photographs

Everyone is accepted

What the documentary does which is interesting is that it shows what happens when a smaller group is supported by larger groups.  Through the course of the Disability Rights Movement, the protestors get help from organizations like the Black Panthers and various other smaller group that frequently march for rights equality.  This echoes the ideas of the Black Lives Matter idea that when Black Lives Matter, all lives matter, and through teamwork and support one group’s freedom ensures freedom for all (though the police and public reaction to the Disability Rights Movement also shows a stark contrast to the demand for equal rights movement over the decades).

Crip Camp shows how just being open and accepting can change lives, ideas, and perceptions.  When you see a lowered curb or get in an elevator or even use the automatic doors, you can know that some of the reason they exist might be because of a small camp.  It would be great to say “well good thing that fight is over”, but fights like this are never over and each fight after might be harder…but they must be done.

Related Links:

The 93rd Academy Award Nominations

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response