SLAMDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! The main character of A$$ Level, Santina (Santina Muha), has spent her life in a wheelchair. While she sits there, the world makes assumptions about what she is incapable of doing and often feels sorry for her as they contemplate what her life must be like. Santina, however, has a very different outlook on the world. She prefers to look at herself and think about the things that she can do that others are not. The thing that she most loves about living in a wheelchair is the fact that she, very literally, is a$$ level to almost everyone. Through a comedic music video, director Alison Becker brings to life not the struggles but the glories of having a disability.
The world often looks at individuals with disabilities and assumes that their lives are one massive struggle. Now, living with a disability can be trying, but the reality is that those individuals are, more often than not, able to adapt and overcome. Furthermore, in my experience, I have found that individuals with a disability don’t want others to feel bad for them but would much rather be treated like the rest of the population. A$$ Level looks to express the misconceptions of living with a disability but in a humorous fashion.
Debunking a way of thinking that has survived thousands of years is a tall task. Becker finds herself attempting to accurately express what life is like for someone who relies on a wheelchair throughout the majority of their day. However, Becker has help from Muha as she, regardless of the lyrics, is the one who is physically present throughout the film. From the moment she appears on screen, Muha presents the world with attitude (something I don’t often address when analyzing films).
“The thing that she most loves about living in a wheelchair is the fact that she, very literally, is a$$ level to almost everyone.”
While aggression is not often a quality necessary to bring a character to life, there is a certain gusto present in every word she utters, making attitude the most accurate word to describe her presence. Furthermore, it is not representative of Muha specifically but of the disabled community as a whole. That task, however, can be daunting and debilitating. Representing a large group of people can be intimidating, and the audience understands that. That discernment allows viewers to better appreciate both what Muha is tasked with and what she brings to A$$ Level.
Much like Muha, the movie as a whole is unapologetic in its approach. The moments of comedy feel pompous as she expresses not only that the disabled are underestimated but, in some ways, better than the rest of the population. Even in its domineering approach, viewers never feel berated or unappreciated. Muha and Becker allow viewers to recognize and appreciate what is being said. It is unrelenting, and viewers appreciate the music video because of that.
While this “look at me, appreciate what I have to say” approach seems somewhat juvenile on the surface, the reality of what is being said guarantees that the world will admire the themes at play. Becker and Muha ensure that there is no misunderstanding regarding the message and take viewers on a journey of not only a new appreciation for those around them but their way of thinking. A$$ Level is open and honest, and its ability to be so truthful allows it to shine.
A$$ Level screened at the 2021 Slamdance Film Festival.
"…open and honest, and its ability to be so truthful allows it to shine."