Where I Am: Slamdance Film Festival

Imagine that you are your healthy, mobile self one day… and can barely speak or walk the next. All due to a hate crime.

That’s what happens to writer Robert Drake in Pamela Drynan’s documentary, Where I Am, after he is suddenly brutally attacked in his apartment in Sligo, Ireland over ten years ago. Now, Robert is paralyzed.

The film takes us through Robert’s journey back to Ireland. Drynan intersperses pictures of the former Robert, giving us glimpses into the life he had versus the one he has now — which requires a personal assistant, Butch, and a wheelchair.

Through it all, we get to know Robert’s essence: a charming man who still makes jokes and does not pity himself or his situation.

The only question that haunted me in the film was: What exactly happened to Robert? What did the attackers do? I imagine a reenactment of it may have been too much, and tonally, a different film, but I wanted more detail. Also, I would have liked to see even more of the old Robert. But these points are minor compared to all of the major notes the story hits.

Where I Amis an eye-opening tale of living life to the fullest. And of love, like between Robert and those around him, i.e., between Robert and Butch. The men who attacked Robert may have taken away his walking and talking ability, but his will to live and wit are still there – he can still think for himself, converse, and write, and is currently working on a memoir of his recovery.

Afterwards, Drynan, Robert, and Butch were on hand to speak to the audience.

Drynan said it was such an “amazing project, I couldn’t not do [it]… Robert had to learn to talk again… It was important to me that Robert talked to us all [on camera]… I wanted him to tell his story from the inside.” Drynan said she resisted subtitling Robert’s lines for a long time, but then decided she did not want viewers to miss anything he said, so she added them. And having voice-over done by someone else was not an option.

With the large amount of material they gathered, Drynan said, “It was really important to have a really good editor.” I would agree. Editor Janice Toomey pieced together the film beautifully, reeling us into Robert’s world from the get-go.

As an audience member said after the screening, we all have moments of paralysis in our lives, but that does not limit what we can achieve. For some inspiration, see Where I Am.