Documentary Review: All Inclusive

Film Review

All Inclusive: A Documentary About People With Cognitive Disability And Fighting Spirit

Viktoria Geldner

With the Special Olympics starting in June, All Inclusive is a documentary about four athletes that sets the tone for the competition in Berlin. Determined, unswerving, and full of fighting spirit, this film allows the audience to partake in the athletes’ journey towards the games – all while being pleasantly unobtrusive.

The Special Olympics, not to be confused with the Paralympics (where athletes with physical disability compete), have put cognitive disability into the spotlight. Nonetheless, also without the summer games pending, (cognitive) disability, in one way or another, has been far from absent from public discourse and cultural productions.

Yet another documentary about (cognitive) disability … Or is it?

The documentary All Inclusive is accompanied by subtle music, nothing inspiring, nothing empowering, nothing uplifting, usually employed during the shots of the athletes’ environment. This leaves room for the camera – and the audience – to take in what they see and to form their own opinion based on their impressions.

What is shown is the reality the four athletes and their surrounding encounter during their journey towards the Special Olympics. The film provides them with space to speak by recording what is said, oftentimes taking up the position of a quiet observer. The athletes’ dedication, willpower, and fighting spirit is conveyed nonetheless, and is also detached from the disability.

The opposite, more common phenomenon, so called Inspiration Porn, is usually the case: a person with a disability is praised for whatever the person does. The action is thereby labeled ‘inspiring’ for able-bodied persons, since the disability presumes that the disabled person is not able to do anything apart from being disabled (the phenomenon of the disability overshadowing every other aspect of a person’s existence is called Halo Effect). This way, everything turns into an achievement. And this is precisely what All Inclusive does not: to push an inclusive agenda. Diversity and inclusion take place by themselves, effortlessly, as something natural.

No sugar-coating

What many documentaries do when framing disability is focus on the ‘tragedy’ of difficulty and conflict. While it is true that disability, like everything in life, entails difficulty, All Inclusive has a different approach to it: conflict – arguments, disappointment, disagreement – is shown in the same hands-on manner as everything else in the film. However, the focus does not lay on disability: it lays on the athlete, who must learn a lesson in order to grow and develop as a human being, with or without disability. The same goes for the athletes’ way of going about their lives: “I don’t want things to be made easier for me,” says one of them. “I want to be challenged.”

In this way, All Inclusive is an uncommon documentary with a unique approach. Serving as a platform to let people with cognitive disability as well as their surrounding speak their minds, detached from emotions steering the way the audience is supposed to react, the documentary shows the athletes going about their way in a blunt, unobtrusive manner, and offers both a refreshing insight into disability as well as a possible approach of documentary-style films to the subject.