I Didn’t See You There movie review (2022)

Second—and of equal, or possibly greater importance—”I Didn’t See You There” is an experimental movie of great beauty. It’s filled with images of ordinary objects and situations that have been filmed in such surprising and revealing ways by Davenport that when you encounter them again in your own life, you will see them differently, and think of Davenport’s work. 

There are moments when Davenport makes a point to show us how challenging life can be for him. He gets stuck on a commercial jetliner after it’s landed. He tries to cross a downtown street where drivers ignore crosswalk lines. In his apartment, he listens to answering machine messages while pouring himself a drink with a shaky hand. (The last message is from the Internal Revenue Service.) 

But for the most part, Davenport simply observes the world around him and reports back, as a poet or painter or street photographer might. He sees things that others don’t, and he seems to have his creative antennae constantly extended because he believes there is beauty happening everywhere and he doesn’t want to miss any of it. 

Davenport thinks about freak shows and the monetization of difference when a traveling carnival sets up near his apartment. The freak show is no longer much of a presence in modern life, but it still sums up much of the world’s attitude toward disability. One of the most striking things about Davenport’s filmmaking is the way it pushes against that mentality, not just with spoken or written statements but images and sounds. It insists that Davenport be appreciated as an artist as well as a journalist-advocate. 

The movie begins with a lateral tracking shot, taken from a small camera affixed to the arm of Davenport’s wheelchair, showing a subway train at rest in a station as the filmmaker wheels along its length. Davenport’s voice-over narration describes how, when a train starts to accelerate and pull away from the station after his wheelchair is moving in the same direction, there’s a brief moment when both chair and train are moving at the same speed. Then we see the moment—one that a person without any mobility restrictions would probably never notice—and it lodges in the mind, like an evocative line of poetry that seems tossed-off, yet strikes us in a deep place.

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