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Zion in uniform on the mat in the gym

Young Wrestler Born Without Legs Finds Sense of Family in the Sport

Los Angeles, California, Jan. 8 – Netflix’s “Zion” has won the International Documentary Association’s award for best short of 2018.

Directed by Floyd Russ, “Zion” debuted at Sundance in 2018. Its subject, Zion Clark, was born with caudal regression syndrome, leaving him without legs. He was put up for adoption as an infant and grew up in the foster care system. The documentary short shows how he found a way to fit in by wrestling, something he began as a young child, competing against peers without disabilities.

“Wrestling has changed my life to the point where when I come to an obstacle in my life,” Clark previously told ESPN in 2016, “I instantly figure out a way to get past it and move on.”

The 11-minute short includes interviews with both Clark and his coach Gilbert Donahue. Russ’ approach to telling Clark’s story is important. Many filmmakers do not include many, if any, soundbites from the person with the disability and instead interview other people in his life. Furthermore, many films about an individual with a disability verge on “inspiration porn,” which occurs when people with disabilities are called inspiration or brave for doing something as simple as playing a sport. Falling into this trap leads to stigmatizing disabilities.

Russ, instead, lets Clark tell his own story and does not let the short become a film that exists just to inspire people.

“‘Zion’ by Floyd Russ is a beautiful and touching work that does what documentaries can do better than any other form — give audiences intimate access into the experience of others, in a way that makes us better for it,” said Simon Kilmurry, executive director of IDA.

“Zion” received the award during the 34thAnnual IDA Documentary Awards at the Paramount Theatre in Los Angeles. Floyd Russ served as Director and Producer. Carter Collins served as a Producer.

Meet the Author

Lauren Appelbaum
Lauren Appelbaum

Lauren Appelbaum is the communications director of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities, and managing editor of The RespectAbility Report, a publication at the intersection of disability and politics. Previously she was a digital researcher with the NBC News political unit. As an individual with an acquired invisible disability - Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy - she writes about the intersection of disability, employment, Hollywood and politics. Appelbaum currently oversees RespectAbility’s outreach to Hollywood to promote positive, accurate, diverse and inclusive media portrayals on TV and in film. To reach her, email LaurenA@RespectAbility.org.

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