Kenny Dalsheimer’s documentary focuses on a 2005 project spearheaded by the Community Inclusive Theater Group, a North Carolina-based performing arts endeavor that sought to create an original collaborative piece involving amateur performers along with young people living with developmental disabilities. The project used drama class exercises to find a cohesive performing style and then adapted original poetic text created by the company’s members with disabilities.
The most remarkable member of the company was Christian, a young man who was mislabeled as profoundly mentally retarded before being diagnosed with cerebral palsy. After years of being without the means to communicate, Christian is given the tools that enables his thoughts to be heard – and his insight is so dramatic that project organizer Richard Reho elevates him to co-director. In the most heartbreaking moment, Reho liberates Christian from his wheelchair and carefully cradles him on the ground – the young man’s poignant reaction to this rare tactile experience is one of the most beautiful moments captured in a nonfiction film.
“A New Kind of Listening” provides a wonderful glimpse at this daring attempt to address harsh stereotypes regarding the developmentally disabled, and the only genuine shame with this DVD release is not having the video record of the full-length production staged by the group offered as a special feature with this deeply moving documentary. Nonetheless, this offering is among the year’s finest documentaries and it is recommended with greatest possible enthusiasm imaginable.