Oscar is a winner for Norwood as his disability film gets West End showing

Young North London filmmaker wants audiences 'to see past the wheelchair'


Oscar Kraft comes across a little like a young Louis Theroux when I arrive to interview him about a film he has made about two young people from Norwood and their disabilities.

But the 20-year-old film-maker from North London has had his own issues to deal with, having Non-Verbal Learning Disorder, which makes it difficult for him to recognise and process non-verbal cues — body language, facial expression, the nuances of conversation. It also affects visual, spatial and organisational skills.

The film, The Extraordinary Lives of Stephanie and Joe, was made with the support of Norwood, which will be holding a special screening next week at the Curzon Mayfair.

Mr Kraft has also entered it in the Oska Bright Film Festival — showcasing the work of those with disabilities — and hopes it will help audiences “see past the wheelchair”.

Stephanie and Joe, both twentysomethings, are supported by assistive technology at Norwood’s Lyonsdown independent living housing in Barnet.

The former, a keen 26-year-old artist, uses eye gaze technology to paint. For Joe, 25, the technology enables him to open and close doors in his flat from his wheelchair.

“People will get to see them as human beings,” Mr Kraft said. “You see them doing ordinary things. There might be things they can’t do but there is no need to treat them differently.

“I feel very happy about it as I’ve been working on it for a while. My wish is that people watching it learn not to judge people who have a disability.”

He said his own condition made it difficult for him to do simple arithmetic or navigate journeys. However, managing the timeline of his film had not been a problem — “I don’t know why.

“It is when you give me money to buy something that I can’t manage. I can’t do maths.”

Mr Kraft is the son of Rabbi Neil Kraft, a minister at Edgware & Hendon Reform Synagogue. His mother Susannah works for Norwood.

He discovered his talent for film-making after being set the task of shooting a music video for an ICT lesson during GCSE studies.“I discovered I enjoyed it a lot.”

It spurred him to go on to study film and TV at West Herts College in Watford, where he is hoping to make a documentary about his condition for his final exam.

He will participate in a panel discussion after the West End screening, despite the fact that he “gets very nervous about public speaking”.

A coping mechanism is to imagine “the audience are like my family — or I think about a place we go on holiday to once a year and that calms me down”.

The panel will also include people who use assistive technology in the performing arts world and inventors of technology that helps those with disabilities to communicate and get about.

Norwood chief executive Dr Beverly Jacobson, who has a daughter with learning difficulties, believes it is important to promote anything that can reduce stigma.

“People with learning disabilities are not inhibited by the same social norms that we are,” she noted. “They often just come right out and say things most of us are thinking. It is so refreshing and reminds you of what is important in life.”

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