About Black Telephone

Black telephoneSiobhan is my daughter. She has some severe challenges in life. This means that my wife, Linda, and I have some severe challenges too. Siobhan has Cri-du-chat Syndrome also known as 5P- (five p minus) Syndrome. She is non-vocal but uses the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) to communicate. She’s also intellectually disabled. She is a good communicator, making unexpected connections all the time. Siobhan is a delightful person, very thoughtful, neat and organized, and a pleasure to be around. Linda and I advocate for her wherever and whenever we can and from time to time I post stories here about our adventures.

Oh, you might want to know: Black Telephone… what’s up with that? Well here goes. In the early 1970’s, before personal computers, before fax machines, even before VHS(!), there was film criticism. Film criticism is different than today’s “movie reviews.” Today’s movie reviews are actually turned out by lightly trained chimps. Take publicity email from movie company, mash banana on desk, cut and paste, and voila, you’ve just revealed the entire plot in minute detail and, most importantly, talked about the opening weekend box office take. Do the chimp grin and a couple of somersaults around the cubicle! High five!

This is not film criticism! Film criticism was deep, penetrating, thoughtful, and is hardly practiced anywhere at all today except perhaps by Roger Ebert (RIP) or in “Cahiers du Cinema.” There was a school of film criticism way back then that went like this: there are black telephone movies, and there are white telephone movies. Black telephone movies had black telephones in them, and white telephone movies… well, you get the drift. Black telephone movies: Public Enemy, Open City, Bicycle Thief. White telephone movies: Dinner at Eight, Gigi, anything with Doris Day… even when Ms. Day was talking on an avocado-green Princess Phone. We’re not making this stuff up, folks, it’s a fact. Telefoni bianchi, as they were known in Italy, was a sub-genre, one in which upper middle class virtues were gently mocked. Sort of a self-referential process. Deep but entertaining. Lo Sceicco Bianco.

So what does black telephone cinema have to do with disability rights? Black telephone movies were gritty and real, full of angst and sturm und drang, full of the essence of life. People with ability differences have gritty and real needs, and there is angst and sturm und drang if those needs are not being met. Siobhan is full of the essence of life. We’re trying to make sure her needs are being met so she can be the best person possible.