EXCLUSIVE: The story of disability pioneer Sylvia Flexer is set for the big screen.
Ben Lewis, director of The Sessions and The Catcher was a Spy, is to write and direct a feature film for Keshet Studios and White Lodge Productions.
Sylvia and the President is the true story of a marginalized group of people and their fight for equality. At the age of 21, outspoken Flexer – who walked with the aid of crutches – was elected president of the League of the Physically Handicapped. It was the height of the Great Depression and, like Sylvia, the majority of the members had been affected by polio.
Following their efforts to highlight government discrimination against disabled workers in New York, Flexer and 34 other members of the League rode all night on a flatbed truck to Washington to lobby President Roosevelt – who was still hiding the extent of his own disability from the public – and staged the first ever sit-in protest in a government building.
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The feature will be produced by Keshet Studios, which was behind Sundance films The Sound of Silence and Save Yourselves!, and White Lodge Productions in association with Such Much Films.
Lewin, who helmed Please Stand By with Toni Collette and Dakota Fanning, The Sessions with Helen Hunt and The Catcher was a Spy, with Paul Rudd and Paul Giamatti, will write and director.
Keshet Studios’ Mandy Tagger Brockey and Adi Ezroni produce, alongside Judi Levine (Falling for Figaro) and Danielle Avissar. The feature will be executive produced by Keshet Studios’ Peter Traugott, Keshet International’s Alon Strutzman, Keshet Media Group’s Avi Nir and White Lodge Productions’ Dr. Ori Allon.
Ben Lewin said, “I am proud to be working with Keshet Studios on a subject of such social significance and emotional resonance. At its center is a kick-ass young heroine who faced off against the Cripple-in-Chief himself, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Like Sylvia Flexer, I also grew up with polio and understand, at a very personal level, her hatred of charity, her relentlessness and her need for justice. I cannot help but feel that this story and I are beshert – namely, meant for each other.”
Peter Traugott, President of Keshet Studios added, “Here at Keshet Studios, we’ve always been drawn to compelling stories that are not only entertaining, but that are about important issues, stories with potential for positive change. At a time when ableism is still being debated and equal rights for those with disabilities are still being fought for, this real-life story retelling the birth of the disability movement here in the United States feels like it needs to be brought to screen, and we are thrilled to be making that happen with Ben, Judi and Danielle, alongside White Lodge Productions.”
“White Lodge Productions was founded with the mission of creating compelling content that resonates. The determination of this relatively small group of people to fight against society’s depiction of who they are, and their decision to take their future into their own hands, is nothing short of inspiring. So, it’s a privilege to shed light on the courage and perseverance of the people behind the disability rights movement,” said Dr. Ori Allon.