Spurred by the spectacle of a circus tent that goes up outside his Oakland apartment, a disabled filmmaker launches into an unflinching meditation on spectacle, (in)visibility, and the corrosive legacy of the Freak Show
I DIDN'T SEE YOU THERE
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WINNER OF U.S. DOCUMENTARY DIRECTING AWARD - Sundance Film Festival |WINNER OF GRAND JURY AWARD - Full Frame Film Festival
Film Production • Film Studies • Disabilities Studies • Architecture and Design
Date of Completion: 2022 | Run Time: 76 minutes | Language: English | Captions: Yes | Includes: Transcript | Director: Reid Davenport | Producer: Keith Wilson
As a visibly disabled person, filmmaker Reid Davenport sets out to make a film about how he sees the world, from either his wheelchair or his two feet, without having to be seen himself. The unexpected arrival of a circus tent outside his apartment in Oakland, CA leads him to consider the history and legacy of P.T. Barnum’s Freak Show and its lingering presence in his daily life in the form of gawking, lack of access, and other forms of ableism.
Informed by his position in space, lower to the ground, Davenport captures indelible images, often abstracted into shapes and patterns separate from their meaning. But the circus tent looms in the background, and is reverberated by tangible on-screen interruptions, from unsolicited offers of help to careless blocking of ramps. Personal and unflinching, I Didn't See You There forces the viewer to confront the spectacle and invisibility of disability.
Offering both a perspective and stylistic approach that are rarely seen, Reid brings an urgently needed storytelling eye to filmmaking with a documentary that is powerful and emotional, thoughtful and raw, intimate and political.
Roger Ebert “'I Didn’t See You There' is first-person poetry in captivating motion, expressed with a singular, assured artistic voice.”
Vox Magazine “It is extremely rare that a film with very few human faces can evoke a spectrum of emotions such as laughter, compassion, warmth and distress in 77 minutes. It’s both unsettling and exciting to see a film that is honestly and candidly human, without the frills or the unnecessary.”
"Road movies are an iconic American genre, powered by the rush of freedom, independence and possibility. Reid Davenport might laugh at being compared to L.A. mavericks Dennis Hooper or Monte Hellman [...] but his breakthrough feature doc, I Didn’t See You There, fiercely follows in a grand tradition."
“More poetic than confrontational, I Didn’t See You There’s methods embody its purpose better than any synopsis. The doc hums with a hypnotic affinity for architectural patterns and urban textures, the visual infrastructure highly attractive to Davenport since it allows him to immerse us in his point of view without being the view himself.”
“Strongly involving. The vignettes that comprise Reid Davenport’s existence really give you a sense of life from the vantage point of one at a lower elevation than most. It’s life, as usual, just a little different, is all.”
“I’ve always had this tie with the freak show, especially as a filmmaker who uses his perspective as a disabled person in his work,” [Davenport] said. “Not all of those performers had agency.”
Backseat Mafia “Filmed from his vantage point, his travels and travails are accompanied by his thoughts and feelings. While you might imagine this would only have limited appeal as a spectacle, it works thanks to a lot of imagination on the director’s part.”