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Darius Goes West

by: Logan Smalley

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“Something’s gonna happen like…Just spark the whole world,” exclaims Darius, the star of the award-winning independent documentary feature film Darius Goes West (DGW), 2007. This entertaining and inspirational 94 minute film tells the story of Darius Weems, a fifteen year old with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, and his 7,000 mile road trip across the US and back with eleven of his friends.

In July of 2005, a special education major at the University of Georgia-Athens, named Logan Smalley and a group of his friends, took Darius, who had never been beyond the confines of Athens, Georgia, to Los Angeles, California, with the hope of getting his wheelchair customized by the MTV show “Pimp My Ride.” Although Darius was not able to get his wheelchair “pimped,”  he had the ride of his life.

The film is not about a destination but a journey, not about getting but giving, not about adversity but about triumph, not about disillusionment but idealism, not about loss but about love. We see the world through the eyes of wonder as Darius experiences the Gulf of Mexico for the first time, rides down the streets of New Orleans, descends into Carlsbad Cavern, ascends in a hot air balloon, gazes out over the Grand Canyon, rafts the Colorado River, and meets celebrities in Hollywood. Throughout the film, Darius, who is a talented rapper, provides much of the commentary for the film with his informative and creative raps. The film is funny and serious, hilarious and poignant, carefree yet purposeful. It shows us the very best of what we can be.

DGW, which has won over twenty-five awards at film festivals, serves a dual purpose: it not only documents Darius’ incredible journey, it also brings to the world an awareness of the need for a cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, the number one genetic killer of children. Furthermore, for lagniappe (Darius would love that word), it dramatizes the pressing need to make all facilities handicap accessible. What is deeply moving about the film, in addition to Darius’ indomitable spirit, is that all of us who see the movie become aware of and thankful for all the little things that we take for granted. I, for one, am grateful that there are folks like Logan Smalley and his friends in this world.

The DVD is available through the website Darius Goes West. An educational version is available for use in the schools.

--Penne J. Laubenthal

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