FULL CIRCLE: A Story of Redemption and Hope - Interview with Filmmaker Josh Berman

FULL CIRCLE: A Story of Redemption and Hope - Interview with Filmmaker Josh Berman

Josh Berman is the Director of FULL CIRCLE

Why did you make this film?

Josh Berman: I was originally inspired to make this film to share a story of redemption and hope. Our protagonist, Trevor Kennison, approached me in 2019 with an idea for a short film project based on his goal of returning to the site of the accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down, and completing a backflip in his sit ski (an adaptive device that allows wheelchair users to ski). That on it’s own is a powerful story, but the film ultimately became so much bigger than that. Shortly after production began we learned of Barry Corbet, who’s life in so many ways followed a similar path to Trevor, 50 years earlier. Their stories are linked across space and time by so many touch points, and Barry left a veritable treasure trove of films, books, and magazines that built a foundation for Trevor and people like him to redefine disability. Over the four years that followed the film continued to grow organically, in ways that we could have never hoped or dreamed of.

Tell us about the issue your film focuses on.

Josh Berman: FULL CIRCLE, at its core is about disability, but it also speaks to mental health, substance abuse, and other issues beyond those immediately visible to the outside world. In essence, the film is about how we can choose to deal with any trauma and not only survive it, but grow from it. We find the message of the film resonates with all audiences, young and old, disabled and able-bodied alike.

Why is this film relevant to our current moment?

Josh Berman: 
Ultimately the message that this film seeks to communicate is that we all have the ability to turn tragedy into opportunity. We don’t have to just ‘survive’ trauma, but can actually learn from it, grow from it, and better ourselves for having experienced it- even in the most seemingly unlikely scenarios. Everyone experiences trauma to some degree, and with all the challenges and adversity we face in society today this message has never been more relevant or impactful.

What do you hope educators, students, and community members will learn from your film?

Josh Berman: 
In a direct educational sense, I hope the film opens viewers’ eyes to the disabled community- both the unique challenges that they face, and that they don’t have to be limited, or defined by their disabilities. More broadly, I hope that the film offers viewers some perspective, inspiration, and hope.

What did you learn from the process of making this film?

Josh Berman: The film really opened my eyes to disability, what the disabled community is truly capable of, and how they are ultimately not defined by their disability. It changed my perspective of how disability ultimately affects everyone… if we live long enough. Ultimately, we’re all marching down the path towards some level of disability, physical or otherwise.

Tell us about how audiences have been responding to your film.

Josh Berman: 
We were fortunate to have FULL CIRCLE play in festivals around the world, and through a limited theatrical release in North America, and it has been an incredible experience to watch audiences respond to the film. It’s not your typical documentary in that we fully expect audiences to laugh out loud, cheer, cry… it’s a very participatory experience. Watching a crowd react to your film, and seeing it really resonate with them is the singular most rewarding aspect of being a filmmaker.

Why was it important to tell this story through the perspectives of your film participants?

Josh Berman: 
Making a film about disability as an able-bodied Director, and largely with an able-bodied production crew presented some unique challenges in that we needed to make sure we were getting everything right, and being true to not only that statements and perspectives of our protagonists but the greater disability community at large. Ultimately this story wasn’t ours to tell, simply ours to build a film around. Both of the protagonists in the film were very open about the challenges they face and the realities of living with spinal cord injury- and championed candid conversation and truly ‘putting it all out there.’ This was something that they alone could have done, and we’re grateful for the trust that they instilled in our production team to share their stories.

For you, what is most important that audiences take away from your film?

Josh Berman: 
One of our Producers, Roy Tuscany, who is a spinal cord injury survivor put it best when he told me that his hope is that this film will teach audiences not to look away from disability. I feel that the film gives viewers a look behind the curtain, and humanizes the concept of disability in a way that few others have. Beyond that, I really hope that the film gives viewers a sense that our fate is ultimately in our hands, and that we can work to not only overcome but grow from trauma. To quote Barry Corbet, “You can be ok if you choose to be ok. The future, however unfathomable, is yours.”

Why did you become a filmmaker?

Josh Berman: 
A good film touches people on so many levels. I pursued a career in filmmaking because I wanted to tell stories, stories that move people, inspire them, and make them feel something.

Bring the documentary FULL CIRCLE to your campus.