Local filmmaker shines light on MS

Jason DaSilva chronicles his struggles with the disease in When I Walk

A documentary filmmaker from Tsawwassen is racing the clock to raise money to get his film about his descent into multiple sclerosis onto the big screen. Jason DaSilva was diagnosed with MS in 2005 when he was 25, but it wasn't until the following year when he fell on a beach during a family vacation that he had to face the onslaught of symptoms heading his way.

"This challenge isn't going to go away now, but it's something that I've been dealt for a good reason, because I can talk about it and tell people about what I'm going through," says DaSilva.

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It was seeing those first real symptoms on film that told him he needed to keep the camera on himself.

"I said, 'There's a story that needs to be told here.'"

That first fall and his fight to get up is the opening scene to his new documentary, When I Walk, which aired at this year's Sundance Film Festival to sold out shows and standing ovations.

"I think it's very poignant for viewers to see the transformation that has occurred [for me] and hopefully they can relate to disabled people in a way they weren't before,"

he says in a preview of When I Walk.

The speed with which the symptoms worsened caught DaSilva off guard.

"You hear about primary progressive MS [that] you have, like, five to 10 years until you are in a wheelchair, but it didn't actually sink in until I was in a wheelchair."

It took seven years from DaSilva's diagnosis until he could no longer walk.

The film documents DaSilva as he struggles physically and emotionally with the worsening symptoms.

It follows him as he explores treatments ranging from desperate exercise to seeking miracles in India.

"I believed that my family could potentially help grant me a miracle because they had generations of belief," says DaSilva about his religious upbringing spurring the alternative methods.

Although his condition declined, he still believes in miracles.

After returning to New York, where he currently lives, DaSilva fell in love and later got married. He agrees with his grandmother that finding his wife is his biggest miracle so far.

He also has a little new miracle to be thankful for - a baby boy born last month.

"It gives you a larger perspective on life," he says.

Back when he was a student at South Delta Secondary School, DaSilva won a Delta Arts Council award that sent him to Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design.

It was his graduation project - a film called Olivia's Puzzle staring two little girls, one from Ladner and one from India - that got DaSilva into filmmaking. Olivia's Puzzle also screened at the Sundance Film Festival and was later shortlisted for an Oscar.

For the next few years he travelled around the world making documentaries. Five films later, DaSilva started When I Walk.

Seeing how the film touched his audience made him want to get it out to a wider audience, so he is using a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money.

Kickstarter is "a funding platform for creative projects.

Everything from films, games and music to art, design and technology," says the website.

With Kickstarter, the artist sets a funding goal and people pledge money to the project.

If the goal is reached before a deadline, the pledges are collected, but if the total amount needed isn't raised in time, then no one pays.

DaSilva has until April 3 to raise $27,000.

If he gets the funding, DaSilva hopes the film will be in theatres this summer.

He's also hopeful it will be in the Vancouver International Film Festival in October.

And if the film makes it into theatres, it can then qualify for an Oscar nomination.

To pledge money, visit www.kickstarter.com and search When I Walk.

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