A new, award-winning documentary, titled Forget Me Not follows parents and filmmakers Olivier and Hilda Bernier as they fight for their son Emilio’s rights in the classroom. Baby Emilio was born with Down Syndrome and ever since then, has been fighting for his right to be included.
“I was completely unprepared for my son,” said Olivier Bernier, “And that was because I had never met anyone with Down Syndrome. But as I started to think about it, I realized that the reason why I had never met anyone with Down Syndrome was because growing up, they were hidden from me in my school, which had segregated settings.”
A breakdown of the film
Forget Me Not premiered in October of 2022, and in the months following has created a much needed conversation centered around topics including diversity, intellectual disabilities and inclusive education.
In the film, Olivier and Hilda share their personal journey of battling with New York City’s (NYC) segregated schooling system in order to allow their son to be educated alongside his typical developing peers. With NYC’s schools having one of the most segregated education systems, Olivier and Hilda aren’t just fighting for their own child’s future, but also the other 60,000 students within the school system that are fighting for their right to be included in the classroom.
“When my wife and I were talking about what we want our son’s future to look like, the most important thing was that we want him included in society, and that starts in the classroom,” said Olivier.
Capturing Emilio’s story
Forget Me Not was directed and produced by Emilio’s father, Olivier, with the help of his production company Rota6 Films, an inclusive film crew, and other professionals and organizations. The documentary has been in the making for quite a few years, and during that time, there has been a mixture of emotions and challenges that have gone into the process.
Olivier says the best part of making this film has been blending his profession with his home life. This has made it possible for him to spend most of his time with his family, while working simultaneously. He also added that it has been a pleasure working with all of the parents, professionals, and experts that have aided him in the process.
“Every parent can relate to having videos of their child and never being able to do anything with it,” said Olivier, “but I actually got to work with a professional editor to go through the footage and in the end, created a beautiful family portrait that is a document of our wonderful son as he was growing up.”
While the documentary holds sentimental value, Olivier says that it was excruciating having to relive some of his family’s most difficult experiences during the post-production editing of the film.
“It conjures up all the emotions that we were going through at that time, but we knew that we had to make this film and that we were doing something good. We knew that by getting Emilio’s story out there, we were representing millions of other children across the world, and that made it worth showing some of our most intimate moments,” said Olivier.
One of the biggest goals for this documentary is to educate more people on inclusive education.
Olivier defines an inclusive classroom as being one that includes children with disabilities in the same classroom as typical developing children. This setting also includes the special education teachers teaching alongside the general education teachers, where everyone is able to learn from each other, and with each other. He thinks that this way of teaching is better for everyone involved, and that it will make for a better future as our students learn to have more empathy, and understand different ways of learning and having discussions.
“I hope this film reaches future educators so that they can see a different perspective and can go into school districts with a different mindset of how a classroom should mirror the inclusive society we want to live in,” said Olivier.
Advice for parents
Many children do not get the chance to interact with other children that have intellectual disabilities and therefore, do not know how to interact or even coexist with them, much like Olivier before having Emilio.
“I really made the film for the version of myself before I had my son,” said Olivier. “I tried to make the film in a way that is accessible for people who maybe have never heard of inclusive education.”
In order to have effective conversations with your children, Olivier suggests that parents should do their best to answer the questions that their children have about others who are different from them. He says a lot of the time, these questions are met with remarks meant to quiet the child, when in reality, children are curious and want to know how and why someone is different from them.
“I think the best thing we can do as parents,” he said, “is to discuss these topics with our children. Our differences are what makes us unique and what makes us beautiful.”
Today, Emilio is fully included in general education and he is blossoming in kindergarten. “It was a fight to get to this point and there was a lot of battling before, during, and after the film” said Olivier, “but we’re here now, and we’re really happy to be seeing the results of that work.”
Learn more about the documentary and how to view it at forgetmenotdocumentary.com.