Actor with DS Stars in New Feature Film

“Where Hope Grows” hits theaters May 15. David DeSanctis is the first actor with Down syndrome to land a leading role in a wide-release movie.

David at grocery store - Produce Tom LeGoff 2013-3452-Edit-Edit

“Where Hope Grows,” the first feature film to star an actor with Down syndrome in a leading role, opens in wide release on May 15, and for first-time actor David DeSanctis, it’s the fruition of a long but rewarding experience.

The movie tells the story of a grocery-store clerk who goes by the name Produce, played by DeSanctis. Produce strikes an unlikely friendship with Calvin (Kristoffer Polaha), an alcoholic, burned-out baseball player, and becomes a guiding role for Calvin’s transformation. It’s a movie about relationships and the transformative power of true friendship.

DeSanctis, who is a 22-year-old with Down syndrome from Louisville, Kentucky, found solace in music as he worked extended days on the movie set while making the film.

“I have to learn how to wait on the long hours,” he said. “I worked 12 to 14 hours a day.”

DeSanctis loves music and dancing, and that passion was infectious to the rest of the cast and crew. The music played a big role in bringing DeSanctis, and the rest of the cast, together. For a taste of the camaraderie, be sure to stick around for the end credits after the movie.

Director Chris Dowling said the movie producers created a playlist of songs based on what DeSanctis liked, and they paired the playlist with different scenes in the movie. Then, when days would drag on and filming would run late, the music would break out.

“We might be rushed for time but we’d have a conga line break out in the middle of the grocery store at 11:30 at night,” Dowling said. “David’s a very happy guy, but there are also times where he can get overwhelmed.” The music served as a way for DeSanctis, and the rest of the cast, to refocus.

In preparation for the film’s wide release on May 15, movie screenings have been held across the United States. On May 4, “Where Hope Grows” got a red-carpet premiere in collaboration with Special Olympics in Los Angeles. Global Down Syndrome Foundation sent two self-advocates and their guests to attend and walk the red carpet. In addition, Global supporters were invited to a special screening of “Where Hope Grows” in the Denver area in April that included a Q&A with Dowling.

“Where Hope Grows” was an Official Selection of the 2014 Dallas International Film Festival, and received the Audience Choice Award at the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis.

Want to see the movie? Click here to learn more about theaters in your area that will be showing the film.

Learn more about DeSanctis, the movie and what Dowling hopes the impact of the film will be – all in the upcoming issue of Down Syndrome World magazine. Become a member of the Global Down Syndrome Foundation to receive Down Syndrome World.

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