Last night I saw Praying with Lior , a documentary about the bar mitzvah of a boy with Down’s Syndrome. Easily the best movie I’ve seen this year, better than There Will Be Blood , Mary Poppins (leaving aside the great song Feed the Birds ), Blade Runner , and several documentaries, for example. I asked a friend why she liked the TV show ER . “It makes you feel happy and sad,” she said. Praying for Lior made me sad again and again, which is part of why I liked it so much. I also liked seeing someone with a handicap struggle and succeed; Praying with Lior has a lot in common with My Left Foot , one of my favorite movies.
The person responsible for the film is Ilana Tractman, who met Lior at a religious retreat . Her day job is making television documentaries. She got the money to make the film — from a large number of foundations and people — while she was making it. As far as I can tell, she had almost total freedom, in contrast to her TV documentaries. I use the term superhobby to describe activities that combine the skills and resources of a professional with the freedom of a hobbyist. All of the blogs I read regularly are superhobbies. My self-experimentation was (and is) a superhobby. Writing open-source software is a superhobby. Most books are superhobbies. When a superhobby produces art, we call the product a labor of love. As we get richer and richer — thus can afford more freedom — and skills and knowledge improve, these labors of love become better, more possible, and more common.
The Praying with Liorwebsite revealed to me that the film had/has a “mission”: “to change the way people with disabilities are perceived and received by faith communities.” Perhaps that is another reason why such a good film was made: This purpose helped it get funding and other help (a lot of people worked on it). And maybe it was part of why Ms. Tractman began and continued a difficult and uncertain project.