Until 30 years ago, many people with Down syndrome were seen as ‘patients to be hospitalized’ since birth and as such were locked up in institutions with the mentally ill. Laws 517 and 180 then changed Italy and the fates of thousands of ‘different’ people. And they brought back within society all those citizens who had previously been considered, at best, second-class.
Although a Down syndrome sufferer, Luigi Fantinelli overcame, one by one, all the challenges posed by the education programme tackled not only by the disabled but by all children of school age, going as far as to attend the University of Bologna and obtain an Erasmus Scholarship.
His is not merely the story of courage and personal endeavour. It is also the fruit of a multi-disciplinary, human-oriented and professional project undertaken by persons committed to helping the disabled towards active and creditworthy lives within society.
It is testimony to a personal experience captured with great sensitivity, while Luigi’s invaluable openness, frankness and great awareness deserve praise: for months he opened up the doors to his life so that his experience could bring hope to all those people who would like to go beyond the limits imposed by the system, dealing with topics often still considered taboo in today’s society, such as the acceptance of Down syndrome, sexuality, intellectual scope, self-sufficiency and friendship.
For a whole year, starting in May 2009, Luigi is accompanied by the camera as he takes the most important steps in his journey. The results provide exclusive documentation of the events, emotions and difficulties that he finds himself up against.
In September 2009, Luigi moves to Bologna, living during the week in a flat with other students who bravely accept the challenge of sharing their independent lives with a young man with Down syndrome.
For Luigi it is his first taste of life outside of the family environment and he tackles this entirely new experience with an awareness that will enable him to make his own way in life, introducing self-sufficiency and independence.
His adventure takes a new turn in January 2010, with the Erasmus project, as he goes to attend the Faculty of Education at the University of Murcia, where he stays for about 6 months.
The modern world offers us many stories of ‘different-ness’, and some of these are charged with emotion and feeling. This is one of those moving stories, one stirring reflection and illustrating the desire to live life.