We Can Shine: From Institutions to Independence



In his search to understand his own disability, Asperger’s Syndrome, filmmaker and history buff Adrian Esposito questioned what it would have been like for him had he been born in 1944. What he found was shocking and what could be described as “horror” in its truest sense.

We Can Shine-From Institutions to Independence is a documentary about the state of institutions for the developmentally disabled in New York State from the 1900’s onward. The film chronicles the events that led to the Willowbrook Consent Decree as told by Bernard Carabello, one of its former residents who later founded the N. Y. State Self Advocacy Association. We also hear from self-advocate Michael Kennedy, placed at Rome and later Syracuse Developmental Center at 5 years old, now married and living independently.

Adrian Esposito’s research further led him to realize that poor conditions for the developmentally disabled still exist today in institutions in certain countries around the world.

The film’s message is to show that with the proper supports, guidance, and love, people diagnosed with developmental disabilities can achieve-surpassing the expectations of most. With this in mind, he showcases people with developmental disabilities who are achieving-many through the help of OMRDD’s Self Determination program.

He presents Sarah, who cannot talk but can write moving poetry; Dario, who has a brain injury and is a talented photographer; Christine and Eric, both diagnosed with Down’s syndrome, committed in love to one another and striving for careers in drama and dance; and Mark, diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and now successfully employed and happily married.

We hear from the parents of a young boy diagnosed with Down’s syndrome, and the content life of a young woman living in a modern group home.

These stories and much more are presented in this historical film. You will not be the same after you view it!

Official selection 2010 360|365 George Eastman House Film Festival.
Official selection 2010 Breaking Down Barriers Disability Film Festival.
Official selection 2011 Picture This Film Festival, Calgary, Canada.
Official selection 2011 Buffalo Niagara Film Festival.

Running time 57 minutes: Optional Subtitles
directed & narrated by Adrian Esposito;
written & produced by Kristina Nomeika;
original musical score by John Centrone