University of Maryland School of Medicine filmmakers Susan Hannah Hadary and William Whiteford won an Academy Award for "King Gimp," a documentary that chronicles the struggles and triumphs of a Baltimore boy growing up with cerebral palsy.
Fourteen years in the making, "King Gimp" follows the life of Dan Keplinger as he enters the educational mainstream, becomes an accomplished artist and graduates from college. Keplinger and his mother Linda were in the audience when Whiteford and Hadary accepted their Oscar for best short documentary during the nationally televised awards ceremony.
"We are sincerely surprised and grateful," says Whiteford, who shot more than 80 hours of footage for the 39-minute film. "The nomination was an honor by itself, but this is a dream come true for any filmmaker."
Because of the effects of cerebral palsy, Dan cannot speak clearly and he is unable to hold a paintbrush in his hands. But as the film illustrates, those challenges have not prevented Dan from expressing himself. Dan uses a headgear to hold a brush and special stick that enables him to type.
"Dan has an amazing spirit that has enabled him to overcome his disability along with the obstacles and insensitivity he has encountered throughout his life," says Hadary. "Our film is a celebration of that spirit and Dan's will to succeed."
The script for "King Gimp" was taken from some 80 pages of recollections that were painstakingly typed by Dan one letter at a time. The title was taken from a childhood nickname that Dan has embraced.
"We are extremely proud of Bill, Susan and Dan," says Donald E. Wilson, M.D., M.A.C.P, Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean, School of Medicine. "Their film demonstrates the power of the human mind to overcome physical challenges that seem insurmountable."
"King Gimp" will be shown during the Maryland Film Festival at the Charles Theatre in Baltimore on April 28th and 29th. The rest of the country will get a chance to see "King Gimp" when it airs on HBO June 5th.
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