4 Feet High
The annual Sundance Film Festival showcases some of the most creative, radical and stimulating independent audio-visual work in the world. The Argentinian miniseries 4 Feet High is right at home here for its boundary-pushing depiction of people with disabilities. Though, it must be said that the boundaries have to be pushed because handicapped individuals have been boxed in within the frames for a long time now.
This is the story of a girl, Juana (Marisol Agostina Irigoyen, a wheelchair-using performer making an excellent debut), who moves to a new school where sex education is deficient. Joining fellow students in a demonstration, Juana argues for a more well-rounded curriculum as she undergoes the process of exploring and experimenting with her own sexuality. Across six short episodes – the entire series totals 80 minutes – the audience follows the usual chronology of a high school student. Fitting in, making friends, partying, drugs, sex and fighting for a higher quality of teaching when the generational gaps in attitudes and ideology are increasingly transparent. It’s both a wonderful coming-of-age piece and a fine chronicle of an activist’s journey.
Juana is a disabled protagonist who gets to be herself and isn’t trying to be saved, considered to be special or inspirational or pitied because of her disability. She’s the leader of her own story. Series creators, Maria Belen Poncio & Rosario Perazolo Masjoan, show evidence of working closely with the actress to ensure authenticity. They also flesh out the side characters and pay great attention to detail in building an immersive high school world that feels both culturally specific and universally relatable, accompanied by snappy dialogue and memorable music.
More stories like this are needed. 4 Feet High shows that representation isn’t merely visibility. It isn’t enough to simply feature a paraplegic person or two same-sex individuals sharing an onscreen kiss. Rather, it’s about good storytelling and dedicating time to understanding and empathising with characters.
4 Feet High does not have a UK release date yet.
For further information about Sundance Film Festival 2021 visit here.
Read more reviews from the festival here.
Watch the trailer for 4 Feet High here: