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Inspirational African story to screen Tuesday

MATT JAMES, Of the Record staff
Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah is picture here in the Ghanaian capitol of Accra. Photo by Lisa Lax.
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This Tuesday, Park City will have a chance to see an inspirational story. That chance will come when the National Ability Center and the Salt Lake City Film Center present a screening of a documentary, "Emmanuel’s Gift" at 7 p.m. in the Jim Santy Auditorium.

"It is a collaboration with the Salt Lake Film Center," said National Ability Center chief executive officer Meeche White.

The Film Center, she noted, offered the National Ability Center a unique opportunity. In addition to the screening, the star of "Emmanuel’s Gift," Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, will attend a question-and-answer session following the screening.

"You can see the film anytime," said White, "but to have the actual person there; that’s special."

Directed by twin sisters Nancy Stern and Lisa Lax, "Emmanuel’s Gift" tells the story of two years in the life of Yeboah, a Ghanaian man born with a severely deformed right leg. While many Ghanaians who are born with disabilities are shunned, forced to beg or even poisoned, Yeboah’s mother decided to nurture him and educate him and giving him the confidence and ability to succeed.

Although his mother died when Yeboah was a teenager, he started a shoeshine business to support his family and set out to prove that disabled individuals can control their destinies. After asking for and receiving a bike from an American nonprofit, the Challenged Athletes Foundation, Yeboah set out to bike across Ghana with one leg to disprove stereotypes and attract attention to his cause.

Narrated by Oprah Winfrey, "Emmanuel’s Gift" follows his journey across Ghana as he gains the recognization of his countrymen and gains a huge following. From there, the film follows Yeboah to the United States, where he continues to spread his message of empowerment.

"It’s an incredibly inspirational film," said Katherine Toll the managing director of the Salt Lake City Film Center. .

For his work and his accomplishments, Yeboah was recognized this past July with ESPN’s Aurthur Ashe Courage Award, along with the Casey Martin Award from Nike. He has also met with President George W. Bush.

With his visit to Park City and the screening of his film, White said he will bring his story of overcoming disability.

"I think what it does is create awareness about the abilities of those with disabilities," said White.

"It’s helping to educate a society about their stereotypes and how they can overcome them," she added.

Toll said her organization came across the film and decided to include it in the spring program.

"It is a film that is making the festival circuit, along with the filmmakers, and it came to our attention," Toll said.

After leaning the piece’s subject matter, the Film Center went to the NAC and asked if the organization would like to help host a screening. White jumped at the chance to show a movie with a theme so clearly aligned with the National Ability Center’s mission, and with the organization on board, Toll said a Park City screening seemed to make sense.

In addition to the Park City screening, the movie will also show Monday, May 1, at 7 p.m. in the Salt Lake City Main Library auditorium. Both the Salt Lake City and Park City screenings are free and open to the public.

"Since our partner in this is the National Ability Center, and since the NAC is housed in Park City, it was a perfect opportunity to serve both communities," said Toll.

The program is one of several collaborations the Salt Lake Film Center has organized in Park City this year. Among the others are the Global Lens Series, presented in conjunction with the Park City Film Series, and the ongoing Spanish-language film series the film center presents with the Park City Christian Center.

"I think we always enjoy working with various organizations up there," said Toll.

The screening of "Emmanuel’s Gift" comes to town as part of Film Center’s new series, The Face of Africa: Exploring Voices and Visions Through Cinema. The program aims to bring the Salt Lake City public African-themed films while exposing the community to filmmakers and building "cultural bridges," between the Film Center and African immigrant populations in the Salt Lake City area.

"Emmanuel’s Gift" is the first screening in the series.

"It’s the launch," said Toll.

Yeboah is scheduled to be in town starting Saturday. White said he would tour the Utah Olympic Park and some of the University of Utah’s physical therapy units.

Toll said she was excited to be able to host Yeboah and show his film.

"It’s an amazing story," she said.

"Emmanuel’s Gift" will screen at 7 p.m., Tuesday, May 2 in the Jim Santy Auditorium in Park City. ‘The screening is free and open to the public. For more information, visit http://www.slcfilmcenter.org.


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