Andre the Anti-Giant

Andre the Anti-Giant – Ottawa Premiere
Director: Kim Saltarski
Documentary | 2016 | 16 minutes | Language: English |

A 3-foot-something actor/comedian/disability advocate strives to retake the stage following a life-endangering diagnosis in this intimate and inspirational tale of hope, hardship, and hilarity. 

* Director Kim Saltarski as well as Andre’s parents will attend the screening.

“Andre was such a ‘human beacon’ in the sense of how he made the most of life despite facing extremely daunting physical challenges. He was a 3-foot-something comically fuelled, socially conscious, disability activist tank of a man”, director Kim Saltarski filmmaker tells Ottawa Indie Fest during a recent interview about the subject of his documentary “Andre The Anti-Giant” which has its Ottawa premiere at Ottawa Indie Fest on Saturday June 3, 2017 at 8:00 pm.

Andre the Anti-Giant is the remarkable journey of 3-foot-something actor, comedian, and disability advocate Andre H. Arruda. Although born with a rare genetic condition, Andre hasn’t let it or misguided ableist preconceptions prevent him from fulfilling his show business dreams. Supported by a loving family, Andre defied an early prognosis that he wouldn’t live beyond his teens, becoming a regular at Toronto comedy clubs despite their limited accessibility and the harassment of those who insist on defining him by his stature. When a new medical complication threatens to leave him paralyzed, Andre must summon that defiant spirit yet again in order to retake the stage.

How did you get involved in making a film about Andre?
I met Andre H. Arruda in 2003 at a comedy showcase in Toronto. His ground-breaking style really caught my attention and I later went on to hire him for a TV series I produced for Global. Flash forward to the summer of 2015 when Andre announced he needed intense spinal surgery to avoid going paralyzed from the waist down. I knew his surgery/recovery journey and his unique life story had to be made into a documentary.

What were some of the challenges in making the film?
It’s always very challenging when documenting the everyday life of a subject who is going through a major health challenge. Just the simple act of scheduling a shoot day might not be the best thing physically for the subject. Luckily for me, Andre was incredibly resilient to physical adversity after a lifetime of dealing with Morquio Syndrome. And he was never shy about telling me directly when he wasn’t up to shooting during his intense rehabilitation and return to stage. But that rarely happened because when Andre set his mind to something there was no stopping him.

Andre in rehab standing up for one of the first times.

Can you share with us any special moment or memory you have of Andre?
I remember when I shot Andre performing stand-up the very first time after his surgery. It was in a “Weed Room” in Toronto. Just before he went on, his hearing aid batteries died, so he did the set to a room of grinning stoners, without the feedback comedians thrive on. Yet, he did his full set and wanted to review the footage the next day so he could polish his material. He was a true professional and also embraced the absurdity of the situation.

Andre was such a “human beacon” in the sense of how he made the most of life despite facing extremely daunting physical challenges. He was a 3-foot-something comically fuelled, socially conscious, disability activist tank of a man. He refused to accept the limits society imposes on the physically handicapped and the career challenges of being a professional actor/writer/comedian. Andre hated being called a hero. He even mocked it in the documentary and a VICE Canada web series. But to many people, he was exactly that. As his dad said, “You don’t have to be a full-sized person to be a hero. You just have to have a full-sized heart.”

Did Andre ever get a chance to see the film before he passed away?
Andre got to see the film at our packed cast and crew private screening party last November. He loved how the doc turned out and the enthusiastic audience response.
We also formed a band that evening where Andre showed off his incredible Joe Cocker-ish vocal talents.

(Tragically, Andre died on January 27, 2017 from complications from his life-long struggle with Morquio Syndrome.)

What kind of feedback and reaction have you been getting from audiences who have seen the film?
Audiences have been deeply moved and inspired by the film and the incredible legacy Andre leaves. Living your life to the fullest despite whatever challenges are thrown your way was his natural way of being. They also resonate with the comedy woven throughout the doc because as Andre said, “Let’s make fun of every horrible thing that’s going on with myself or the world or whatever.” His wonderful parents and family were key participants in the documentary and very supportive. I know they deeply appreciate the documentary’s honest and meaningful tribute for their incredible son. They are planning to attend the screening, as unfortunately I won’t be able to. Thank you in advance for the opportunity to share the wonder that is “Andre The Anti-Giant” at the OttawaIndieFest.

Andre The Anti-Giant is the second film in Kim Saltarski inspiring documentary series about human beacons. His first film was IF THE POET, the riveting story of Ian French, aka “IF”, who dove into Slam Poetry at the age of 50, which premiered on CBC TV last year and is available on Amazon Prime U.S.

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