by Lindsay Wong
Back for its fourth year, the MINDS Film Festival this year takes place at Shaw Theatres Lido from January 15th-19th. Organised as a collaborative effort by MINDS (Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore) and the Singapore Film Society, the event aims to raise awareness to support people with intellectual disabilities and autism. Through the medium of film, MINDS intends to portray their powerful stories and get their voices heard across Singapore.
The festival features six international titles from the US (‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’, ‘Intelligent Lives’), Hong Kong (‘Distinction’), Italy (‘My Brother Chases Dinosaurs’), Korea (‘Innocent Witness’) and Spain (‘Champions’), all of which will be screened at Shaw Theatres Lido on different days. The movies revolve around the theme of supporting those with intellectual disabilities.
The festival kicked off on January 15th with ‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’, starring Zack Gottsagen, Shia LaBeouf and Dakota Johnson. This independent film won the Audience Award for Narrative Spotlight at the highly-acclaimed SXSW Film Festival in 2019.
The Peanut Butter Falcon Review:
‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’ is a feel-good and heartwarming movie about Zak (Gottsagen), a young man with Down syndrome, who escapes from a nursing home in his pursuit of attending a professional wrestling school under the training of his hero, Saltwater Falcon. When he escapes, he comes across Tyler (LaBeouf), an outlaw, who later becomes his friend and coach. Throughout the film, Zak and Tyler have beautiful bonding moments. Witnessing their friendship develop and blossom was truly inspiring. From the beginning, Tyler never looked down on Zak or perceived his disability as being a big deal. He simply saw Zak as a friend and an independent adult, albeit one who needed additional support and help at times. Tyler later on delivers a moving speech to Saltwater Redneck to coach Zak, proving the power of friendship.
The movie also depicts the kindness of people, like how the blind religious man assists them and how Eleanor (Johnson) cares for Zak. Eleanor, a nursing home employee and Zak’s friend, joins Tyler and Zak in their journey, creating a makeshift family for the latter. The film does a great job of normalising friendships between the abled and disabled instead of abled people always acting as caregivers. It showed that the intellectually disabled are perfectly capable of being independent adults, who can make their own decisions and enjoy life, despite having to go the extra mile at times.
Zak himself is an inspiring character who is not limited by his disability by any means and will do whatever it takes to reach his dreams. He is ambitious and determined about becoming a wrestler. Tyler realises Zak’s full potential as he trains him — Zak is incredibly strong and does have what it takes to be a wrestler. Zak’s big match at the climax of the movie is intense and had the audience on the edge of their seats. It ultimately proved that even people with intellectual disabilities can be winners too.
Despite its nature, the film is not as emotional as I expected. It focuses more on the relationships between characters and Zak’s efforts to becoming a wrestler instead of his disability. While the film does have its fair share of heartbreaking and crushing moments, balanced with the right amount of suspense and thrill, it has a satisfying ending, which the characters deserve after everything they have endured.