The Gillian Film

Order a Life of File Streaming License

a film about a young woman with developmental disabilities
who decides to move out of her parent’s home

Click to watch the film trailer here

For courses in Disability Studies, Special Education, Psychology, Public Health, Social Work, Human Rights

Gillian Fink is a young woman who works at a local veterinary clinic, rides horses, takes dance classes, and has developmental disabilities. When Gillian decides to move out of the house, her mother must come to terms with letting go.

The Gillian Film shares the difficulties and joys of both raising and being a person whose abilities are in constant and productive tension with her distinctive thought styles and cognitive capacities. It explores issues around school transition and the importance of social inclusion and independent living for people with disabilities.


“Filmmaker Joanne Hershfield’s study of her developmentally disabled twenty-something daughter Gillian centers on the latter moving away from her family and into her first apartment. Home movie clips of Gillian as a young girl are interwoven with more recent footage of her tap dancing and attending drama class, enjoying herself at various parties and dances, and participating in the Special Olympics (her various sports include horse jumping and skiing). Sure to promote discussion, this alternately moving and provocative profile is recommended, overall.” Aud: C, P.  *** Video Librarian, J. Williams-Wood

“Last week I showed the DVD to our special needs parent groups called, SPECIAL FAMILIES, in Hickory and the families loved it. There was not a dry eye in the room. We discussed the film afterwards and the parents shared that the story gives them so much hope for their children. We discussed how the focus was on all the things your daughter can do and does so well. Can she teach me how to dance like that?

Last night we showed the video to another group and they to felt the same way. Thanks you so much for putting the powerful message out to those that are looking for hope. Melanie Long, Senior Program Coordinator Family Support Network/HOPE

“The Gillian Film is a bold and courageous documentary:  a personal and family narrative, a coming-of-age film, and a materialization of pressing themes in contemporary disability studies.” Barry Saunders, MD, PhD., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The Gillian Film is a mother’s-eye view of a 22-year-old with mild mental retardation as she is about to strike out on her own. Gillian responds to questions with the typical teen look, as though she sometimes wished the filmmaker had been someone other than her mom. But the intimacy makes the portrayal of a parent’s feelings ring true, and The Gillian Film has the immediacy of a home movie. You leave feeling the best is possible for this vibrant young woman and that her mother will survive as well.” Library Journal, Courtney Deines-Jones, Grimalkin Group, LLC, Silver Spring, MD

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