We haven’t attended many world premieres. So two weeks ago, when we had the chance to see the debut screening of Sky Blossom at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., we pounced. . . . .Well OK, it was a virtual screening. We were sitting in our basement, watching on the same laptop into which we’re now typing these words. Fine. It was still a world premiere, and we’re counting it.
The main thing is, we’re glad we saw Sky Blossom because of its realistic portrayal of limb loss. Much like Father Soldier Son, which impressed us so much earlier this year, this documentary resists the temptation to wedge the experience of disability into an artificial narrative arc. Another similarity is that Sky Blossom explores the impact of limb loss upon whole families, not just on individuals.
What sets Sky Blossom apart is its focus on young caregivers who stand behind and alongside amputees, sharing their ups and downs. It’s a particularly apt film for November, which is National Family Caregivers Month. As the film’s promo materials note, roughly 53 million Americans help to care for disabled relatives, and that number has increased in 2020 because of COVID. (See Amplitude‘s “Caregiving” section and the Amputee Coalition’s caregiver resources for info and tips about supporting a loved one with limb loss.)
Two of the five families featured in Sky Blossom have amputee dads—Chaz Allen, who lost both legs in combat in Afghanistan, and Bill Ploof, a truck driver who required amputation of his right leg as a complication of diabetes. For Allen, still physically robust and stubbornly self-reliant, the benefits of caregiving appear to be more emotional than physical. He draws strength and purpose from his identity as a parent, and his disability brings him closer to his teenage daughters and imbues them with an uncommon level of maturity. Ploof, who’s older and beset by a wide range of health challenges, seems fairly reliant on his 21-year-old daughter to meet his daily needs. She organizes his meds, administers his insulin shots, and keeps track of his doctor appointments. She also works full time, attends college, and tries to maintain some semblance of a social life.
Produced by a high-powered team that includes two former Emmy nominees and an NBC news anchor, Sky Blossom is one of a trio of amputee-themed movies to appear on Variety‘s most recent list of contenders for the Best Documentary Oscar, alongside Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution and Boys State (which prominently features bilateral leg amputee Ben Feinstein);