Netflix UK film review: Crip Camp
James R | On 30, Mar 2020
Director: James Lebrecht, Nicole Newnham
Cast: James Lebrecht, Lionel Je’Woodyard, Joseph O’Conor
Where to watch Crip Camp online in the UK: Netflix UK
“I wanted to be part of the world, but I didn’t see anyone like me in it.” That’s just one of the many young people who went to Camp Jened, a summer camp for teenagers with disabilities in the 1970s. Down the road from Woodstock, it was the place where seeds for sown for real, lasting and needed social change – and the fact that you’ve likely never heard of it before is precisely why Crip Camp is such a moving and important watch.
Directors Nicole Newnham and James LeBrecht take us back to 1971 and immerse us in the Catskills retreat. Piecing together oodles of archive footage, they capture the ramshackle vibe of the getaway with a free-spirited, warm vibe. That warmth is what was so special about the place, a utopian gathering point for those were usually sidelined by society, a place for them to be accepted, understood, welcomed and celebrated.
That experience of being free from judgement inspired a generation of young adults to demand that change in every avenue of life, campaigning and working for recognition and respect with an energetic passion. The movie lets us join them on that journey, interviewing former campers to chart their progression – and the progression of the world around them.
Throughout, we’re reminded that each of their individual stories and experiences are different and unique – it recognises its subjects’ personalities, sex drives, interests and senses of humour. The latter is particularly key to the movie’s winning, stirring tone, from the first half in which we casually hang out with them as they flirt, talk and joke about to the second half in which we root for political change without losing any of that nuance. One pointed speech sees a counsellor, Judy, declare that she shouldn’t have to be grateful for the basic human right of accessible bathrooms – a powerful moment in an uplifting film that finds its value in valuing others.
Crip Camp is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.