A believer in helping; a learning disability person of standing, David empathized and campaigned for disability rights. His last project was for better information about cancer. He raised money to make this film but never saw it finished. Despite disabilities don’t underestimate David’s understanding of the choices he had left.
This film is about David Ripley who had mild special needs after being born with Hydrocephalus in 1971. He grew up in Liverpool and at fifteen moved to Somerset. The documentary takes the audience through the last 2 years of his life as he battled his Leukeamia, in parallel an extensive photo archive explains David’s upbringing, key achievements, hobbies and values.
Filming started when David was alive and undergoing Radiotherapy (at the Bristol Royal Infirmary), he was interviewed in his flat and also kept a video diary for the last six weeks of his life. David had a clear voice and came across well on camera, a warm, considered and engaging personality. David embodied what the care sector have been trying to do, that people with learning disabilities should not just in the community but should be ‘part of’ the community.
David’s Mother and Father, Alan and Sue, his younger sister Wendy and brother in law John talk about his him after he has died. His Dad was a Anglican preacher for much of his life and presents emotionally difficult moments in enlightening ways. His Mum has been a campaigner in various roles through out her life and continues to work a bereavement charity, she worked with David to record a diary of all the complicated procedures that happened to him when he was first diagnosed. Wendy is an engineer and has a very forthright delivery and articulates her love and sisterly frustration about her brother.
The film interweaves all these elements so that the film isn’t just about someone dying from cancer but expanding ‘the patient’ into a whole person, showing him as being part of a wider community, which includes the hospital staff that treated him. – staff from Yeovil District Hospital, Musgrove Park Taunton and the B.R.I.
The film celebrates some of David’s many achievements in his life, including getting this film off the ground and doesn’t hide the fact that he dies but highlights that he had a supportive and loving family; that loved and cherished him whilst he was alive and that have been brave enough to help share David’s story since he has gone.
It is a subtle story about someone turning his diagnose into something useful for others; also that disability is not a measure of courage or intention. Through all the things that did happen to him he also stayed upbeat in his out look, he was able to live from day to day and enjoy the time he did have.
The film is a reminder that all of us we have to face our own mortality and David’s example is a lesson in how to do that bravely.