AWARD THIS! 2023 NOMINEE! Among the many reasons filmmakers make documentaries, awareness is one of the most important. Unfortunately, issues that severely affect a small minority are either forgotten or remain unknown. In his documentary, Truelove: The Film, Phil Viardo shines a light on the little-known genetic condition known as Williams syndrome.
Williams syndrome refers to the deletion of a specific group of genes on chromosome #7. Williams manifests itself early in underdeveloped babies experiencing abnormal growth rates of the aorta. As a result, they experience low birth weight, low muscle tone, and facial features, including a wide mouth and full lips. However, children with Williams syndrome also seem to have a generally positive outlook on life and a love for music.
The title refers to Callie Truelove, a young, charismatic woman who lives a full and happy life with Williams. When her mother, Tabitha, was pregnant with her fourth daughter, the family was ecstatic, to say the least. But concern arose when Callie experienced heart problems and would cry incessantly.
Now an adult, Callie shares her experiences on YouTube, which garners the attention of families worldwide who needed a name/diagnosis for their child’s condition. Her story was seen by Christopher Knight (yep, Peter Brady), whose production company is responsible for Truelove: The Film. Today, Callie has dedicated herself to supporting others with Williams and their families through her Truelove bus tour.
“Williams syndrome refers to the deletion of a specific group of genes on chromosome #7.”
Viardo is not short on subjects to interview. As a young girl, Clancey has a similar story to Callie’s. When her mother learned about Williams, the local university invited her to be part of its music therapy program to study the disorder and create treatments to deal with the anxiety and stress. The kids in the program took part in a choir and performed annually at the Grand Old Opry with guest artists like Carrie Underwood and Darius Rucker.
Then there’s Tanner. His story is an inspiring one of community. Tanner felt different as a child, but his high school life changed him. His cheerful demeanor made him popular on campus. He joined the dance team, participated in sports, got a million views on his Tik Tok page, and now has a girlfriend.
Danica is an adult woman with Williams. She fell in love and gave birth to twins with Williams. Her story is about a single mother who had difficulty raising her twins and needed help from the twins’ paternal grandmother. Then Truelove: The Film highlights that Williams is not just a Caucasian syndrome but affects all ethnicities through Ariana. But the children who participated in support groups and medical programs are predominantly white. So Ariana’s parents decide to be the ones to reach out to minority communities.
Not only does the director tell the personal stories of those affected by Williams, but points out the problems when these children become adults and need full-time assisted care. Unfortunately, this places a financial burden on parents and is not covered by insurance as other disorders are. Viardo also takes us to an annual Williams syndrome convention where families across the nation share their experiences and find resources for help.
Truelove: The Film runs for one hour and fifty minutes, and there’s a lot to unpack in it. However, admirably Viardo takes on the admirable feat of juggling so many inspirational stories, educating us about Williams Syndrome and its growing number of resources. He does so while keeping us engaged in this important issue. It’s also a documentary about the love and joyful life of those with Williams. It opens the door a tiny bit more to a much bigger and hidden world.
Truelove: The Film was nominated for the 2023 Award This! Socially Relevant Documentary.
For screening information, visit the Truelove: The Film official website.
"…admirably Viardo takes on the admirable feat of juggling so many inspirational stories, educating us about Williams Syndrome..."