The Cleveland International Film Festival promotes artistically and culturally significant film arts through education and exhibition to enrich the life of the community.
April 03, 2017 | posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers
“Most of us know what stuttering sounds like,” says director John Gomez. “However, the profound psychological impact that it can have on an individual is information that is just not readily available for public consumption.”
“When I Stutter” is a documentary film that follows the lives of individuals from all walks of life and their struggle with stuttering.
Gomez wasn’t always a filmmaker. He had a business filming weddings and from there began producing a few short-form projects. “Ultimately,” he says, “I worked up the nerve to try my first feature film.”
At 30, Gomez went back to school to study communication disorders. Today, he works as a speech language pathologist. While studying, he was exposed to many educational documentaries on the subject of stuttering.
“As I watched [the documentaries], I was always taken with how forthcoming and powerful the interviewees were,” Gomez says. “Prior to hearing these stories, I didn't quite know just how profound of a psychological impact stuttering could have on one’s life.”
This is what struck such a deep chord with Gomez. “At a certain point it occurred to me that the content from the interviewees was always compelling.” However, he continues, the production quality was dated or “didn’t emotionally resonate with its subjects.”
And so began this director’s journey. He found many of the film’s subjects through his professor, Gail Wilson Lew. “She opened many doors for me, including introducing me to a local chapter of the National Stuttering Association (NSA).” Lew invited Gomez to NSA meetings and workshops in order to further his research. “She set up an interview with the esteemed Barry Guitar who is currently one of the foremost experts on stuttering in the world.”
The film also features many speech language pathologists, including Dr. Scott Palasik, a communication disorders professor at the University of Akron. “His story is especially compelling because stuttering actually led him to contemplate suicide.”
For Cleveland audiences, Gomez has a few thoughts: “My hope is that audience members will walk out with a different perspective on stuttering and share what they learned. They will also witness the amazing effect that speech therapy can have and how to best engage with a person who stutters.”
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