Gen Z Starter Pack Ep 5: Borrowed Freedom

The race to become a Paralympian is on as 21-year-old Alina sets out to defeat the odds through horse-riding. In true Gen Z spirit, nothing can dampen her resolve, not even cerebral palsy, pandemic or falling off horses. Backed by her exuberant coach Jessie and her four-legged boyfriend Dart, Alina is one to watch in the coming years.

Director Statement:
I first met Evan*, a youth with mild autism, when he was on one of his night walks. As he would trip and fall with every couple of steps he took, he was inviting many curious stares while others simply avoided him at a wide berth. After befriending him, I realised that he would walk up to 1-2 hours each night. It was his way of proving that he was able to do something.

In another instance, I encountered Luke*, a youth with severe autism who had a meltdown on public transport. As he got increasingly agitated, the bus driver had ask all passengers to disembark. Everyone avoided eye contact with him and some expressed distaste at his behaviour. I remember distinctly that he was repeatedly shouting, “I want to go to Sentosa but nobody will bring me there.”

In both instances, that no one had thought to approach or even acknowledge the individual feeds into a narrative of invisibility for the special needs community. It is a narrative that comes up often in conversations with those differently abled or those working alongside them. Perhaps, because they seem different, our automatic responses are to ignore or to avoid the unfamiliar.

It is hoped that with the megaphone of film, voice and visibility can be given to this community that has been largely misunderstood. Without any lofty ideals that one film can change the tide permanently, it is nonetheless an aspiration to build up a collective of stories that can erode misconceptions and share the spirited stories these individuals all have, starting with Alina’s story.

Alina represents a remarkable Gen Z with an inspirational resolve to partake in Paralympics 2024. My hope is that the film can capture a snapshot of her determination and overturn the narrative of helplessness. As Alina put it best, she can proudly achieve the same goals as her peers, just through a different route.

*not their real names