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I was not looking for a film subject, and I wasn't particularly interested in disability. I'm not sure I ever thought about disability. What I was doing had no connection to my career as a producer/ director of TV documentaries. I was actually trying to pray.

Searching for spiritual inspiration outside the stale synagogue experience of my childhood, I attended a retreat for the Jewish New Year. As I sat in the service, anxious, distracted, counting the pages until I'd be free, I heard Lior's unabashed, off-key, ecstatic voice. When I turned to look at the source of this sound, I was struck to see a boy with Down syndrome. And I was surprised to find myself envious of this "disabled" child, who could pray as I wished I could.

Over the course of this retreat, I stalked Lior, looking for the secret to his prayer. When I heard he was having a Bar Mitzvah, I pictured the movie version. And then I realized that I could make it.

Soon after, I read "Praying with Lior," the article Lior's late mother had written 7 years earlier, about her 5 year-old son who had Down syndrome and could pray like nobody's business. Devora ended the article wondering what Lior's Bar Mitzvah would be like, wondering if she would live to see it. Reading that prophetic question, and knowing that she died, I felt compelled to tell the story where the article left off.

The keys to the telling of Lior's story only revealed themselves to me later - Lior's dynamic, honest, and expressive family; his gifted comic timing; and a series of unpredictable story twists that make documentary filmmaking so rewarding. While I've been making films about captivating people for fifteen years, Praying with Lior affected me in profound ways, re-calibrating my notions of community, family, ability, and spirituality.

I didn't anticipate the passionate intensity of the audience response - the standing ovations, extended runs, rave reviews. While it's true that this film is about a Jewish child with a disability, it's the representation of unconditional love that affects people, inspiring them to write to me from around the world, each person also wanting a little bit of what Lior has.

Ilana Trachtman is available to do an "inclusion talk,"
and present scenes from the film at your synagogue, church, or organization.
More information on the presentation on the contact page.
Write to us or schedule a screening: prayingwithlior@hotmail.comSpeak to us: 212.791.1567