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


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Film Production • Film Studies • Disabilities Studies • Architecture and Design

Date of Completion: 2022 | Run Time: 76 minutes​​ | Language: English | Captions: Yes | Includes: Transcript & Discussion Guide | 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.


Educational Media Reviews Online | Reviewed by Giovanna Colosi, Librarian for the School of Education, Subject Instruction Lead, Syracuse University
"This film would be a good one to show in a Film Studies or Disability Studies course."

University of Missouri | Robert Greene, filmmaker, "Procession", Associate Professor, Murray Center for Documentary Journalism at the University of Missouri
"Reid Davenport’s I DIDN’T SEE YOU THERE is extraordinary. The film is immersive, quietly fiery, emotionally galvanizing and radically present tense. It’s the kind of film that can change the way a viewer thinks, not with a didactic agenda, but with the raw power of the camera and the poetic force of the editing. It was my favorite film I saw at Sundance."

UC Berkeley | Jeffrey Skoller, Associate Professor of Film & Media
"I Didn't See You There is brilliant, moving, and connects with the politics of the current moment. Reid Davenport has created one of the few films I've seen that is an actual image of embodied subjectivity - it’s a sensory (auto)ethnography in the truest sense. The film fully realizes and builds upon the aspiration of the diaristic subjective vision of American avant-garde filmmakers Stan Brakhage, Bruce Baille, and Jonas Mekas, and the reflexivity of Cinema Verite."

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.”

Filmmaker Magazine
“Davenport has put a stake in the ground for an emboldened cinema of disability.”
“A debut feature that is deeply and sometimes opaquely personal.”
“It’s a must-see.”
Hollywood Reporter
“Draws a direct line between the circus’ legacy of the “freak show” and the ableism that Davenport […] confronts on a day-to-day basis.”
"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."
The Wrap
“Takes viewers inside Davenport’s POV from a cinematic standpoint”
Todd Chandler | Filmmaker Magazine
How boring it would have been to cut a film made by someone with the same sensibilities as me!”
POV Magazine
“A radical film that re-appropriates the gaze and asks audiences to look at the city with a fuller and more inclusive view.”
Paste Magazine
“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.”
Film Threat
“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.”
The Mercury News
"An immersive, impressionistic experience”
Fox 5 New York
“‘I Didn’t See You There’ is a challenging but essential viewing experience.”
Slug Mag
“The shots are reverie-inducing, hypnotic and rather enchanting”
High on Films
“Reid Davenport’s documentary could turn out to be the most important thing you will see this year, if not the greatest.”
La Estatuilla
“A powerful meditation on how we see people with disabilities”
Seventh Row
“Davenport doesn’t just aim to tell the audience about his experience as a disabled person, but to show us the way he sees the world, using techniques that are rarely implemented on screen.”
Park Record
“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.”

48 Hills | Dennis Harvey
"In his general perspective and frequent logistical frustrations, [...Reid Davenport's] movie provides a challenge to the complacency of the able-bodied, and a chance to experience a very different relationship towards the external world."

San Francisco ChronicleChris Vognar

Eat Drink Film | C.J. Hirschfield
"The result satisfies, once the viewer recognizes that the film will not deliver a traditional beginning, middle and end—it’s more like a very thoughtful road trip from his [Reid Davenport's] wheelchair; we’re literally along for the ride."

KQED Arts | Michael Fox
"The accomplishment of I Didn’t See You There lies in how effectively Davenport and editor Todd Chandler interweave the filmmaker’s personal life with his social-issue concerns, to the point where any distinction evaporates."


Winner of U.S. Documentary Directing Award | Sundance Film Festival
Winner of Grand Jury Award | Full Frame Film Festival
Winner of GGA McBaine Bay Area Documentary Award | SFFILM Festival
Truer Than Fiction Award | Film Independent


Wisconsin Film Festival
Hot Docs
Sydney Film Festival
Rooftop Films
Edinburgh Film Festival
Melbourne Film Festival

Reid Davenport makes documentaries about disability from an overtly political perspective. Reid’s first feature film, I DIDN'T SEE YOU THERE, won the Directing Award for U.S. Documentary at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and the McBaine Bay Area Documentary Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival. It will have a national broadcast on POV in January. The film has been hailed by critics:  Nick Allen of Roger Ebert described it as “first-person poetry in captivating motion, expressed with a singular, assured artistic voice.” Vox called it a “must-see.”

His film currently in production, Life After, is being produced by Multitude Films and has been supported by Field of Vision and Catapult Film Fund. It was a selection for the 2022 Hot Docs Pitch Forum and will be released in early 2024. In 2020, Reid was named to DOC NYC’s “40 Filmmakers Under 40.” His short film, A Cerebral Game, won the Artistic Vision Award at the 2016 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival for “creating a visual landscape that is at once disorienting and nostalgic - and the result is so raw and compelling it’s impossible to turn away.” Along with A Cerebral Game, his short documentaries Wheelchair Diaries and RAMPED UP are distributed by New Day Films. Reid’s work has been supported by The Ford Foundation, Sundance Institute, Creative Capital, XTR, ITVS, NBCUniversal, CNN and the Points North Institute, among others.

Reid was a 2017 TED Fellow and gave a TED Talk about incorporating his own literal body into his filmmaking. His work has been featured by outlets like NPR, PBS, The Washington Post, MSNBC, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. Davenport received a Master of Fine Arts in Documentary Film & Video from Stanford University in 2016, and a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication from The George Washington University in 2012.