ROLLING was named best documentary at the Independent Film Project conference for works in progress, held in New York City. The film was also one of 14 new American films chosen by the Independent Film Project for screening at the European Film Market, which was held in conjunction with the Berlin Film Festival.
While Berland and her cinematographer both shot footage for ROLLING, the documentary is primarily filmed by the three participants via video cameras mounted on their chairs: Buckwalter, a clinical psychologist paralyzed at 17; Wallengren, a TV writer with five children who suffered from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), which stole his mobility and, finally, his ability to speak and breathe; and Elman, who was the business manager for a department at the UCLA School of Medicine until multiple sclerosis put her in a chair.
In the film, Buckwalter calls himself a “proud gimp” and says, “My blessings don’t stop it from hurting.” Each participant captures the joy of living as well as the pain. Buckwalter films himself practicing with his band, Siggy, camping with his wife and friends, stressing aching shoulders by repeatedly lifting himself in and out of his car, and during a frustrating doctor’s visit.
Elman, the divorced mother of a daughter in medical school, is seen advocating for Californians for Disability Rights and a bill called the “V. Elman Community Living Act,” which would make it easier for the disabled to live at home.
Wallengren is seen deftly coaching his sons’ basketball team, dealing with awkward comments from well-meaning people at a birthday party, and using dry humor to deflect difficult situations.
“Even though the film started out as a way of understanding the experience of being in a wheelchair, in the end, it’s really about life,” says Berland. “It’s not about feeling sorry for someone with a disability.”
Rolling in the media
ROLLING on TALK OF THE NATION
ROLLING on Disaboom
Statements about ROLLING
"If we want to create a patient-centered health care system, we need to better understand the perspective of the patient. How do you really understand someone's viewpoint? One option is to give them a camera." -- Filmmaker, Gretchen Berland
"Something as small as getting back into my chair can be a pretty big victory. I'm not always sure people can see that. That's why I took the camera." -- Associate Director, Vicki Elman
"Because most people can walk and run and climb, and since I can't, I'm defined as disabled, not only defined as disabled, I'm expected to act and feel disabled. For many years I did the same, but what they don't see now is that I'm a survivor." -- Associate Director, Galen Buckwalter
About the Filmmaker
Gretchen Berland is a physician who uses her experience in documentary production and journalism to highlight issues that are critical to understanding and improving health care. She has spent the last 10 years giving video cameras to participants. ROLLING is her third project to use this approach.
Berland received a B.A. (1986) from Pomona College and an M.D. (1996) from Oregon Health and Science University. Prior to attending medical school, Berland worked for the PBS television series NOVA and MacNeil/Lehrer Productions. She completed her internship and residency at Washington University Medical Center in St. Louis, Barnes Hospital (1996-1999). Berland was a fellow of the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program at the University of California, Los Angeles (1999-2001). Since 2001, she has been an assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at Yale University School of Medicine.