Lior’s Gift

It would be selfish — and quite frankly, unfair — for a person to demand from Lior a great degree of spiritual nourishment on the basis that he prays zealously. The documentary’s stance and the best response is to celebrate Lior’s gift and to show an appreciation of how that gift betters the life that would otherwise include many tests and trials. Therefore, the Bar Mitzvah ceremony for Lior at the documentary’s climax is not just a rite but a statement of the ability to triumph in the face of adversity.

Ultimately, Lior’s reason for davening is not to offer a standard level or set of expectations for individuals living with down syndrome, but rather to show that the monolithic perspective is fundamentally flawed. The documentary suggests that everybody can benefit from perceiving each life, no matter one’s ability as a teachable moment.

Special features of the documentary include an informative extra to the film’s already well thought out presentation of a family with a disabled member. They include valuable bonus scenes, deleted scenes from the documentary, and a list of educational items.

Being a Special Needs Sibling is one of the bonus scenes, profiling kids living in the Scarsdale sib-connection program. This short bonus scene extends the feature documentary’s concern for those sisters and brothers that feel left out because their special needs sibling demands, or being shown more attention. The additional resources also include follow up interviews of four years later, which shows the situation of the family when Lior is seventeen years old. These interviews are quite revealing since they allow the family members to express how their lives have changed and how their attitudes have changed since the documentary was first filmed.

In the interviews, Trachtman does something that is not often seen by allowing her characters to react to the documentary on the camera and how they are represented within it. Mordechai looks back in disbelief at his low expectation of what Lior’s life would be as a teenager, and Lior’s sister, Anna is no longer frustrated by her brother. In addition, Lior’s self-advocacy and advancement seem to be the careful result of watching himself in the documentary and coming to the understanding of what it means to have down syndrome from the documentary.

All in all Praying with Lior is an interesting documentary. It allows one to see through the lens of a person living with a disability, and the lives of those around him. It compels you to reexamine the views you might hold about people living with a disability. But Praying with Lior is not about coping with a disability challenge, it is also a story of triumphing in the face of adversity.