Whistler + Squamish, BC
MAIN INTERVIEWEE // DIRECTOR
INSPIRED BY DOWN SYNDROME
MAIN SUBJECT // DOCUMENTARY LEAD
HAS DOWN SYNDROME
The world doesn’t know what to do with Adele Helleman. She gets sympathy a lot, that instant, almost instinctual “oh poor dear” feeling. Otherwise it’s usually curiosity, fear, patronization, or trepidation. Sometimes people just ignore her altogether, avert their eyes and push past. But once in a while, someone will meet Adele the same way she meets everyone she’s ever known: with love.
Adele is 37 years old and has Down Syndrome. Every moment to her is both important and irrelevant, every encounter brims with enthusiasm, and every person is a potential dance partner.
Can’t Stop Love is a documentary about Adele’s latest passion, a series of DIY community dance classes she hosts in Squamish and Whistler. Alongside her sister Andrea Helleman, Adele creates space where people can lose their inhibitions and preconceptions, about dance, about Down Syndrome and about themselves.
By recounting the high and low points of Adele’s life, and speaking with young families just embarking on the journey of living with Down Syndrome, Can’t Stop Love shines a spotlight into the joy, adventure and discovery that exists in a world where you don’t give a damn about anyone’s judgement, including your own.
WHY THIS STORY ? WHY NOW ?
Much of western society still struggles with stigma around Mental Health, particularly genetic disorders like Down Syndrome. After losing her mother and sole care-giver in 2012 Adele and her sister have been forced to lean into the love, support and acceptance of their community. And Adele is hell-bent on giving some back. Each dance class she organizes doubles in size and she was recently featured in Coast Mountain Culture magazine as an iconic figure of “happiness.”
Adele has something to give everyone she meets—be it a hug, a new perspective or a high-kicking dance move. In a world that seems to be drifting towards new paradigms of inclusion and acceptance, Adele is ready to show the world what she, and everyone with Down Syndrome, is capable of.
The Whistler/Squamish community is among the healthiest, most youthful and most active in Canada. The area is world renowned for high functioning individualists, extreme athletes, and those drawn to life in the margins. These are people that live life to the fullest and make every day matter.
So Adele fits right in. Her perpetual “stoke” is understood and embraced in a community and culture that celebrates passion and living life “in the moment.”
Adele’s dance classes are open to all, just like her heart. But the way the Sea to Sky community mirrors that will be inspiring to families and communities across the country that perhaps haven’t reached that point yet.
WHY AM I THE BEST PERSON TO TELL THE STORY ?
I am Adele’s sister, her biggest fan, and her number one antagonist. Her story is half my story, and after we watched our mother take her last breaths of life we have been united by something more than sibling love and familial connection. These past years without our mother, the hardships and the triumphs, have taught Adele and I the importance of legacy and of love. Adele was my mother’s greatest gift to the world. She can enter a person’s heart as easily as I might walk through a door and she lives each moment, with each person, in the essence of openness and joy.
I’ve watched this my whole life but over the past 7 years I’ve witnessed Adele’s momentum build. I need to tell this story, I need to ensure my mother’s love—the love that got Adele this far that burns constantly inside her—can reach beyond our family and out to all who need it.
HOW WE ARE GOING TO TELL THE STORY
As a character study, my target audience for this film is simple: anyone who likes character, but I feel it will be especially significant for anyone with a disabled family member or friend. Our over-all message is positive but we will dip into the realities of caring for a family member that faces challenges arising from a disability.
The story structure will be based around Adele preparing (or seemingly not preparing) for her biggest community dance class yet. Flashbacks into our childhood will help build character and push the narrative, while segments of two families of young children with Down Syndrome coming to see Adele instruct for the first time will add emotion and tension. The climax will be Adele instructing, dancing and inspiring a room full of extreme sports athletes, Instagram influencers, housewives, children and more to let it all hang out and embrace themselves, and everyone else completely and utterly.
I expect to use handheld, verité-style footage of Adele’s daily life, historical photos and video, a few sit down interviews, day of class interviews with participants and high-gloss multi-camera filming for the final dance performance.
“Adele connects, teaches and moves with her creative energy and open heart. She inspires us to peel back the layers of social inhibition, gives us confidence to be ourselves, and encourages us to dance freely. No judgement. As I danced, I also watched my 11 year old son with Down Syndrome shyly try a few moves... then fully energized bust out the moves to the radio in our car directly after.“ - Xo Kaz and Nash