In the early 1970s, a then 15-year-old Jim LeBrecht spent a summer at Camp Jened in upstate New York. For LeBrecht, who was born with spina bifida and uses a wheelchair, the experience at a hippie-run camp for disabled kids changed his life. And he wasn’t the only one.
LeBrecht is co-director of the Netflix documentary “Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution,” which is now Oscar-nominated for Best Documentary Feature.
“Crip Camp” offers archival footage showing something that was rare for disabled teenagers: the freedom just to be kids. There was swimming, singing, and hooking up.
The spirit of Camp Jened later lit a fire of disability activism, as a group of former campers found themselves living as young adults in and around Berkeley.
It was there that former Jened camper and counselor Judy Heumann fought for the very first federal protections for people with disabilities, and led a 1977 sit-in at the San Francisco office of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare.
LeBrecht co-directed “Crip Camp” with his friend Nicole Newhnam, an Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker. LeBrecht did the sound design for three of Newnham’s previous films.
LeBrecht and Newnham tell us about the emotional Sundance premiere of “Crip Camp,” and how they ended up getting the backing of Higher Ground, the production company founded by Barack and Michelle Obama.