Distributed by Rooy Media LLC , 7407 Hilltop Drive, Frederick, MD 21702 240-446-5317
Produced by Robert Rooy and David James Savarese
Directed by Robert Rooy
DVD , color, 53 min. and 72 min.
High School - General Adult
Disabilities, Diversity, Learning Disabilities
Reviewed by Cynthia Wu, University at Buffalo (SUNY)
Date Entered: 3/1/2018
Deej charts the progress of a young man with autism from high school to college. The subject of the film, D. J. Savarese (called “Deej”), does not speak. Instead, he communicates by typing on a keyboard. A computer-generated voice articulates his words. His high school in Grinnell, Iowa has accommodated and welcomed his mode of verbal interaction. Deej is academically and socially integrated into the life of the school, and is encouraged to apply for college after graduation.
In addition to the usual questions that prospective college students ask admissions officers, Deej must also be mindful of how accommodating the school is for disabled students. He advocates for himself on campus visits, asking pointed questions to admissions staff about the resources their schools provide. He eventually chooses Oberlin College, becoming its first non-speaking autistic student. He graduates summa cum laude with a double major in anthropology and creative writing and wants to become an advocate for other disabled people.
The storyline of the film is interspersed with passages from Deej’s poetry, recited alongside watercolor animations interpreting the poetic themes. Director Robert Rooy spends ample time interviewing Deej’s parents and other family members, but a breath of fresh air comes in foregrounding Deej, front and center, as the agent of his own story. Deej is highly recommended for both the K-12 and college levels. The film is captioned, and an audio description mode is also included. Both 53-minute and a 72-minute versions are available.
- Winner, Jury Award for Best Feature Film, Superfest International Disability Film Festival
- Winner, Jury Award for Best Feature Documentary, Indigo Moon Film Festival
- Winner, Jury Award for Best Feature, Chagrin Film Festival
- Winner, Jury Award for Best Feature Documentary, Newburyport Documentary Film Festival