‘See me do’ is a beautiful black-and-white documentary by the Belgian director Klara van Es. For three years she volunteered one day a week at a home for the mentally and physically handicapped, Monnikenheide. In the last year she decides to follow six people with the camera: Jessica, Mathias, Nadine, Quan, Sam and Sofie. And guess what? The people with the so-called limitations turn out not to be that ‘limited’ at all. It depends on how you look at them, whether you want to put in the time and effort. Because, Jessica says: “I feel that they are looking at me. Looking is allowed, but staring? No, I prefer not to. But then I just look back. ” In the documentary we also learn how the residents look at themselves, they are very aware of what they can and cannot do. Like Quan who is mentally well, but physically limited, so we need help with everything. He is disappointed and a bit sad because he ‘again cannot go with his family to China around Christmas’. But, on the other hand, he also gets it. ‘Then I’ll throw myself into other fun things’. Like singing along at a festival where Belgian bands perform. Because that’s the other side; he is not afraid, just a daredevil.
Jessica is mentally very witty, but she notices that her body is increasingly failing her. For example, riding, which she likes to do, is increasingly a challenge. But she also comes with a wisdom: “I’ve seen so-called normal mothers with their children. Well, they should have made a different choice, because they were not suitable for motherhood. At least I know it was going to be a difficult thing, so I don’t get started. ” Not a pin in between. So they also hold up a mirror to us.
Or Nadine, with dementia and born with Down syndrome. She talks in staccato: “Over. Finito. ” Or no. No swimming.” When Renate (her sister?), Whom she often asks about, comes to visit, she brightens up completely.
The basic emotions happy, afraid, angry, sad are also regularly discussed with the residents of the care center. The moderator of this circle discussion, Ben, knows how to steer the emotions in the right direction. For example, if he asks resident Dominique how she is doing, he gets the following answer: “Everything is fine in my head and heart.” Yes, let the spontaneous expression of emotions, unfiltered, but leave it to the residents of Monnikenheide.
Sofie is the worst case. Completely locked in her own world. She expresses herself with facial expression. But here too, respect for how the caregivers (‘educators’) even deal with her in a normal, no-nonsense way. And cheerful French DJ Sam, who calms down from the music of André Rieu (and plays four times in a row): “Everything then drops down.” He is also a pacemaker at work. “So, the keys to my BMW.” A little later we see him getting on his bike … We also meet the timid Mathias, an autistic boy, who knows how to spoon up all the birthdays of everyone in his vicinity.
Love is also talked about. Jessica doesn’t have a boyfriend, but she does hope “enough people like her.” Yes, ‘See me do’ contains many of these kinds of swallowing moments, where we are briefly pressed to the facts. It is not without reason that the documentary won the jury prize for Best Belgian Documentary during Docville in Leuven in March 2018.
We see residents at various activities: at the manicure, during the gym class, at a disco evening, during riding lessons, in the art class, during chores on the land and in the communal area. Deeply mentally limited to mildly mentally limited. They all show us their emotions in their own way. Jessica summarizes it for us briefly: “We have the same right to participate in society.” She’s right. Watch this enchantingly beautiful, tranquil documentary. Good for a reality check. After this, you will hopefully look at the mentally disabled differently. So watch, but not stare!