“Putting people of all shapes, sizes, colors…on stage together and presenting them as equals, another critic might have even called it a celebration of humanity,” newspaper critic James Gordon Bennett tells P.T. Barnum in the film The Greatest Showman. This comment highlights what I love about this movie and two others that share its spirit. While quite different, The Greatest Showman, Wonder, and The Music of Silence all have this common spark: a celebration of humanity in the face of social stigmas.
The Greatest Showman
Celebrates: equality, the value of humans, beauty in all its forms, family
Premise: A man dreams of delighting the world with exotic shows. With the help of his wife, two young daughters, and a lot of ingenuity, P.T. Barnum recruits social outcasts to join his cast. Instead of hiding their physical differences, Barnum invites these people to celebrate who they are and to take their differences to new heights (or girths) on stage—to allow their audience to view the “wonders of the world” in a night of entertainment. Full of peppy music, gorgeous sets, and breathtaking performances, The Greatest Showman brings this phenomenal circus show to life and weaves in themes about the importance of family, human worth, and realizing one’s dreams.
Further viewing: Here’s the song that sums up how The Greatest Showman is a celebration of humanity.
Celebrates: kindness, looking beyond appearances, overcoming disabilities, supportive family and friends, inspirational teachers
Premise: Auggie’s dream is to become an astronaut, and he loves to wear his astronaut helmet. One reason for this is because he was born with a rare facial deformity caused by a tumor on his face. After 27 surgeries and years of homeschooling, Auggie is now starting his first day of fifth grade at a private middle school. While a cheerful little boy with a devoted mother and loving father and sister, Auggie struggles with fear of rejection and being stared at by strangers. This film explores how medical disabilities and being physically different can affect not only people like Auggie directly but can impact the lives of family members and friends. I love how the film presents the story from different perspectives and highlights several characters’ personal struggles.
Further viewing: If you want to read a similar story based on true events, consider checking out the autobiographical children’s book Ugly by Robert Hoge, which I suspect inspired Wonder. Here’s Robert Hoge’s TEDx about owning your face.
The Music of Silence
Celebrates: music, overcoming disabilities, family, inspirational teachers
Premise: This is a beautiful biopic about renowned Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli. Born with congenital glaucoma, Bocelli (who goes by Amos in the story) gradually loses his sight and becomes completely blind by age 12. Bocelli himself narrates the story, and the script is based on his autobiography. The film depicts Bocelli’s struggles as he falls in love with music and then loses his voice. His family, friends, and teachers have a powerful influence on his life as he attempts to find a place for himself in the world, fights for independence despite his disability, and tries to follow his dream of being a singer. The music and cinematography are stunning, and the movie is touching and inspirational as it deals with a mother’s heartbreak over her young son’s suffering, Bocelli’s depression and frustration with his blindness, and what it takes to become a world-renowned musician.
Further viewing: Watch Bocelli’s performance of Nessun Dorma.