From 'Educating Peter' to 'Graduating Peter'
In 1992, the Academy Award for best documentary short subject went to a film by producer/director Gerardine Wurzburg that followed a young boy with Down syndrome through third grade in a regular class in his Blacksburg, Va., elementary school.
That documentary, Educating Peter, showed Peter, his classmates and his teacher struggling with the challenges posed by his disability. But it ended with both students and teacher testifying to their own growth as a result of Peter's inclusion in their class.
Now there is a new documentary, airing tonight on HBO. Graduating Peter takes up the story in middle school, where students on the brink of adolescence are less tolerant.
But as with his earlier experience in elementary school, Peter again finds acceptance and even enjoys moments that other teen-agers have -- dates, dances and a job.
Eventually, Peter does "graduate" high school with a certificate of attendance. But the latest film presents a stark portrait of the complexities of growing up with Down syndrome.
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