In the personal essay film “I Didn’t See You There” the filmmaker, Reid Davenport, makes an extended attempt to fully embody his point of view with the help of kinetic camerawork. As an artist with a disability, Davenport navigates the world in a wheelchair, with verve and little patience for the obstacles others can pose, both physical and ideological.
His trips around Oakland, Calif., and across the country to visit his caring family in Connecticut lead him to reflect on “being looked at and not seen,” as he puts it, as well as on the labor of just going about his business in a world that doesn’t always have his needs in mind. His occasional meditations in voice-over are punctuated by pointed encounters with strangers, from flight attendants to an impressed neighbor, and an energizing percussive soundtrack.
Davenport also dwells on dazzling views of the patterned surfaces — such as colorful pavements and walls — that he rolls past. These suggest a heightened attention to potential hazards, but they also evoke the joyous run-on reels of avant-garde diarists like the filmmaker Jonas Mekas.
Davenport’s circumstances are different, of course. His mobility is often dependent on others, and he keeps the camera off himself, in contrast with the many dramas that turn people with disabilities into passive subjects. When he encounters a circus big top that has been erected in his neighborhood, he laments its galling presence and its associated history of freak shows.
With his feature, Davenport stakes out his own vantage point on the world, one that leaves a viewer wishing to hear his thoughts elaborated even further.
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