The first five minutes of You Don’t Need Feet shows Sidike Conde going through his daily routine, getting out of bed, brushing his teeth, getting dressed, going out. Seeing how effortful these activities are for a man without the use of his legs, it’s incredible that Conde has accomplished as much as he has.
Filmmaker Alan Govenar met Sidike Conde when he won the Heritage Foundation award in 2007.
Sidike traveled to America from Guinea to perform with his band. He is also an accomplished educator. And he has done all this despite being disabled.
Sidike developed polio as a teenager and at the age of 14, he fell down one day and never got up again. At the age of 17, Sidike was almost excluded from a circumcision ritual that welcomed young men into adulthood. Determined, he learned to dance on his arms, to play drums and to do everything the other boys could.
“Stylistically, this pushes my art form to a new level,” said Govenar. “This is the most intimate documentary I’ve ever made.”
And much of the content was unplanned.
Toward the end of the film, there is a party to which all their closest friends are invited, but no one turns up. This is a sad moment and Govenar discussed with Sidike whether to leave this out but they decided to keep it in because that is what they experienced. Another sad moment is when Sidike cries because he misses his mother who never lived to see the success he has made of his life.
One of the most uplifting moments in the movie is when Sidike helps lead an after school music class. The children in the class obviously love his drumming and music lesson. Although it isn’t clear from watching, several of the children have different degrees of disability. The occupational therapist recounts how Sidike inspired the children when they felt unable to participate.
“Look at me,” he said. “If I can do this, you can.”
“I’m hoping people will be inspired to the extent at which it can help their own lives,” said Govenar. “But I’m also hoping it will motivate people to know more about Sidike, and that it can tangibly make a difference in his life.”
You Don’t Need Feet To Dance opens on March 22nd at the Quad Cinema.
Here is You Don’t Need Feet To Dance video: