Watch This: Trailer for Intelligent Lives

Jesse, Marianne, and Chris Cooper in Intelligent Lives

Intelligent Lives follows the story of three three young American adults with intellectual disabilities – Micah, Naieer, and Naomie. They challenge perceptions of intelligence as they navigate high school, college, and the workforce.

Academy Award-winning actor and narrator Chris Cooper talks about the lives of these central characters and the personal story of his son Jesse.

Filmmaker Dan Habib explained his reason for making Intelligent Lives: “What is intelligence? Is a 32-year-old man who co-teaches Syracuse University classes intelligent? What about a 25-year-old woman who charms her way into the job of her dreams? How about a 17-year-old young man whose paintings are exhibited at major universities in Boston?

“Are they intelligent?

“Would your opinion change if you knew that, as recently as the 1970s, all three of these people would have likely been institutionalized and forcibly sterilized?

“I decided to create Intelligent Lives to explore an overarching question: Can any attempt to measure intelligence predict a person’s value, or potential to contribute meaningfully to the world?”

Naomie in Intelligent Lives
Naomie working in the salon

Chris Cooper and his wife Marianne Leone Cooper share their connection to the film’s central themes. Their son Jesse’s intelligence was continually questioned because he had cerebral palsy. Jesse went on to defy these assumptions, becoming a high school honor student, poet and activist before his death at age 17.

Intelligent Lives opens in New York on September 21 and in other cities across the country through the fall. Here’s a list of scheduled screenings by state. Here’s more info about scheduling a screening in your area.

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