“Inclusion shouldn’t be a lottery.”
On November 7, 2017, Notre Dame had the honor to host a live screening of the award-winning and heart-wrenching movie, DEEJ. DEEJ is a film about the inspiring journey of a young man, David James Savarese (Deej), as he battles the obstacles thrown at him due to his condition as a nonspeaking autistic. Throughout the film, Deej shares his story––from being abandoned by his biological parents as a child to constantly being presumed as inferior––his story touches a piece of everyone’s heart.
The event began with the loud and excited chatter of the crowd waiting to experience the moment they have anticipated since word of Deej’s visit spread around campus. Looking around the crowd, a view of familiar and new faces are visible. This image of groups of people from different communities and lifestyles coming together to acknowledge the accomplishments of Deej’s motivational journey shows the impact the film’s trailer alone has already had.
As the movie began to roll with Deej’s voice filling the empty space, silence hushed over the crowd as everyone became engrossed by his heart-wrenching, yet inspiring narrative. By the end of the movie multiple tears were shed, piles of wet tissues were scrunched in hands, and silence encompassed the entire room as everyone sat at a loss for words. The quietness only lasted for a few more seconds, and soon the room was engulfed in thunderous claps. The moving tale of Deej’s journey dealing with nonspeaking autism from childhood to adulthood, allowed the audience to peer into his life through a different lens and completely changed their perception of people who have disabilities.
Shortly afterwards, Deej, with the assistance of his mother, answered questions from the audience and engaged in thoughtful conversation as he discussed his gratitude and the inspiration that kept him going through difficult times. Students were also able to keep a piece of Deej with them as several copies of his poetry were being sold. By the end of the evening, the evident shift in the mood inspired by his story showed how much his story has impacted the Notre Dame community and others, making the event unforgettable.
Check out the breathtaking and inspiring trailer for the DEEJ movie down below!