Dan Habib’s new film ‘Intelligent Lives’ to be screened at Capitol Center

  • COURTESY—Dan Habib

  • Filmmaker Dan Habib and Micah Fialka-Feldman, one of the subjects of the upcoming film Intelligent Lives (working title, due Fall 2017) stand together inside a building at Syracuse University, where Micah has attended college and co-teaches classes. Photo courtesy Bud Buckout COURTESY—Dan Habib

  • Academy award-winning actor Chris Cooper (right) records narration for the new documentary film “Intelligent Lives,” directed by Dan Habib of the UNH Institute on Disability (left). Cameraman Steven Ascher is at center. Courtesy of Dan Habib

  • COURTESY—Dan Habib

Monitor staff
Published: 5/5/2018 11:04:59 PM

Micah Fialka-Feldman was only 11 years old when he was given an intelligence test that would dictate the course of his life.

He was given an IQ of 40, a level of intelligence commonly referred to as moderate mental retardation, which would get people sent to institutions years ago.

The IQ test lowered his confidence as a young man; he was at times bullied and ridiculed in school. A teacher once joked about him attending college.

But he proved them wrong when he went on to not only graduate from Syracuse University, but also become an assistant teacher there.

Fialka-Feldman is one of three individuals with intellectual disabilities profiled in Concord filmmaker Dan Habib’s new film, Intelligent Lives, to be screened at the Capitol Center for the Arts on May 14.

The film follows Fialka-Feldman as he makes decisions about his independence, future plans and pursues romantic relationships.

It also follows two other young people, Naomi, in Rhode Island, and Naieer, in Massachusetts, as they navigate secondary education and the workforce.

Habib, who has built a reputation as a filmmaker unafraid to break down barriers to inclusion, began advocating for access to education for people with disabilities in the early 2000s, when he made a film about his efforts to create a more inclusive environment for his son, Samuel Habib, who has cerebral palsy.

That launched him into Who Cares about Kelsey?, a project about the more hidden disabilities of ADHD.

But he still felt one group was still not getting enough recognition.

“People would watch the films and say to me, ‘well, the one group we can’t really include are the people with intellectual disabilities, right? They’re the ones that just cant function in the regular classroom.’ ”

Habib did some research and found startling statistics: only 17 percent of students with an intellectual disability are included in school – meaning they spend 80 percent of their time in a regular classroom setting. Only 40 percent of those students graduate from high school with a regular diploma. Then, only 15 percent go on to be employed.

Habib found that IQ testing began as a way to identify students who needed educational assistance in France by Dr. Alfred Binet in 1905, but was later altered to be thought of as a way to promote eugenics.

The filmmaker decided he wanted to do something about it.

He aimed to tackle major societal structures – secondary education, higher education and the workplace – and analyze how those institutions accommodate and support people with disabilities.

Habib met Fialka-Feldman years ago, when they served on the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities by the Obama administration together.

He met Naieer, an aspiring artist, at the inclusive Henderson school in Boston. Naomi, who has down syndrome, was working with a job coach to find employment in her local community.

Habib worked to raise almost $1 million to make the film, and recruited academy award-winning actor Chris Cooper, to narrate and share their own personal experience with Jesse, their son who had cerebral palsy.

Then, after a couple hundred hours of filming done over the course of three years, Habib completed the film.

The east coast premiere of Intelligent Lives happened in Somerville, Mass., earlier this month. Tickets are available now for the Concord premiere at the Capitol Center.

Tickets for the 6:30 p.m. screening May 14 will be free for all students, in grade school through college.

Habib said he’s been looking forward to bringing Intelligent Lives to Concord.

“I always love having a big event in Concord. It’s our home, it’s our community. It feels like the most celebratory moment in the film’s rollout,” Habib said.

For more information and  to register for the film go online at https://iod.unh.edu/IL_Premiere.

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