I made this documentary because I wanted to make a film with Special Olympics athletes, who had been the subjects of my two previous films, ABLE and HOST TOWN. Working on those films, I learned so much about the potential intellectually disabled people possess. Making those films, I held firm to the conviction that their disabilities are never what holds them back. What has held them back is the society around them that believes they're incapable; that for them, achievements are impossible. The subjects of my two previous films all refused to believe these ideas.
After making two films on the subject, I remained uncomfortable with a question I had to ask myself: By believing in them, was I helping them expand their potential? Why were they always my subjects, never my fellow filmmakers? I had to question my own motives. This is how the structure of BELIEVE, in which the subjects film each other as our crew supports and films their work with another camera, came to be born. In a serendipitous opportunity, the film unfolded in Nagano, Japan, against the backdrop of the first Special Olympics World Winter Games to be held in Asia.
The origins of the idea of intellectually disabled people forming a film crew predate this film. In 1999, I met the Special Olympics Rhode Island Magazine crew, a TV crew of intellectually disabled people who were covering the Special Olympics World Summer Games in North Carolina. They covered the games, interviewed athletes and recorded segments in their studio to create a monthly half hour TV program. Of course they had a community supporting their efforts. With the assistance of Cox Communications, an American public access channel, the program, which went on air in 1994, continues to be broadcast today. It took six years after I met the Rhode Island crew for the idea of this film to become a reality.
The nine members of our film crew met with our coaching staff over a 6-month period to learn filmmaking and on February 26th, they officially joined the media covering the Special Olympics as we completed our film