Big Enough on PBS by P.O.V.
Jan Krawitz's new film Big Enough, airing June 28 at 10 p.m. on PBS (Check local listings), revisits some of the subjects who appeared in her 1982 award-winning film Little People. Through a prism of “then and now,” she contrasts the youth of these individuals affected with dwarfism with their lives 20 years later.From navigating everyday life to dating and marrying, they confront physical and emotional challenges with humor, grace, and sometimes, frustration. Big Enough provides a unique perspective on a proud and active community that many people know only from cultural stereotypes.
Statement: “As a documentary filmmaker for 30 years, I have never been tempted to return to the subject matter of a previous film,” says Jan Krawitz. “But I maintained contact with several dwarfs who I met through Little People long after the film was completed.
“Five years ago, I began to entertain the possibility of reconnecting
with some of the individuals to see how their lives had changed over
the interim 20 years. Did 11-year old Mark retain his confidence
and optimism as an adult? Did 16-year old Karla marry a little person,
as she had hoped? Did the ‘second-generation’ dwarf
children of Ron and Sharon (a newly married, childless couple in Little
People) have an easier time growing up because of the experience of
having dwarf parents?
“I contacted five individuals who had appeared in Little People to float the possibility of a second film. They all readily agreed (although Len Sawisch cautioned me that he had ‘retired’ from being a dwarf seven years earlier) and production began in 2000. For the past five years, I have again become a part of a community of dwarfs whose generosity in sharing their feelings and beliefs has enabled me to create Big Enough. My involvement with this group of people over the past 25 years has been the most significant experience of my filmmaking career.
“Big Enough is a record of a particular moment in time in the lives of those who appear in the documentary. Tragically, Anu Trombino, whose indomitable spirit pervades the film, died in late May. It is some comfort that Big Enough will endure as a legacy to her magnetic presence and enable so many people to meet this truly remarkable woman,” Krawitz concludes.
People in the film: Mark Trombino has a two-year old daughter, Priya, who has the same type of dwarfism as her parents. Mark’s wife, Anu, died on May 25, 2005 of injuries suffered in a car accident. Len and Lenette Sawisch(daughter Joelle, son Brandon) are living and working in Lansing, Mich. Joelle is the president of the Disability Awareness and Education student group at Ferris State University. Because of his daughter’s “discovery” of the disability movement and his own participation in Big Enough, Len is “flirting with coming out of retirement for another decade or so of advocacy work.”
Ron and Sharon Roskamp (now Sharon Ostendorf) divorced shortly after filming was completed. They both continue to live and work in Grand Rapids, Mich. Their daughter, Alisha, is in high-school and their son, Andrew, recently graduated from the University of Michigan.
Karla and John Lizzoare living and working in southern New Jersey. They have decided not to have children.
Of the estimated 200 types of dwarfism, achondroplasia is by far the most common, accounting for approximately half of all cases of profound short stature. Most achondroplastic dwarfs are born to average-sized parents, and account for somewhere between one in 26,000 and one in 40,000 births. Adults, on average, are four feet tall. Young children, especially, should be examined for such potential problems as central apnea, obstructive apnea, and hydrocephalus.
A person with achondroplasia has one dwarfism gene and one "average-size" gene. If both parents have achondroplasia, there is a 25% chance their child will inherit the non-dwarfism gene from each parent and thus be average-sized. There's a 50% chance the child will inherit one dwarfism gene and one non-dwarfism gene and thus have achondroplasia, just like her or his parents. And there is a 25% chance the child will inherit both dwarfism genes, a condition known as double-dominant syndrome which invariably ends in death at birth or shortly thereafter.
Although achondroplasia accounts for perhaps 70% of all cases of dwarfism, there are approximately 200 diagnosed types, and some individuals with dwarfism never receive a definitive diagnosis.
Other genetic conditions that result in short stature include spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita (SED), diastrophic dysplasia, pseudoachondroplasia, hypochondroplasia, and osteogenesis imperfecta (OI). OI is characterized by fragile bones that fracture easily.
Some people with achondroplasia and hypochondroplasia have undergone painful (and controversial) limb-lengthening surgery. Little People of America's position on limb-lengthening is that it is unnecessary surgery with unknown long-term results, and that it is far more useful to build a dwarf child's self-esteem.
Organizations: Little People of America is a nonprofit organization that provides support and information to people of short stature and their families. LPA provides medical, environmental, educational, vocational, and parental guidance, so that short-statured individuals and their families may enhance their lives and lifestyles with minimal limitations. Formed in 1957, Little People of America is the largest organization in the world devoted to people of short stature, has more than 5,000 members and assists in the formation of related groups throughout the world.
Little People's Research Fund is the only health organization in the world supporting the research for the special medical needs of Little People—people affected with skeletal dysplasia.
And Education: P.O.V. is working with public television stations and national and community-based groups across the country to foster community dialogue around the issues presented in Big Enough. For a list of upcoming screening and discussion events, go to:
P.O.V. is also working with Suzanne Guthrieto develop a lesson plan and a facilitation guide to help event organizers carry out substantive and sensitive discussions around the film’s content. The guide contains discussion questions and background information on the issues. In addition, the American Library Association and P.O.V. are creating a multi-media resource list of related fiction and non-fiction books, websites and videos that further explore the issues in the film. The materials will be available free of charge at www.pbs.org/pov/outreach on June 15, 2005.
On P.O.V. Interactive: The Big Enough companion website offers exclusive
streaming video clips from the film and a wealth of additional resources,
including a Q&A with filmmaker Jan Krawitz, ample opportunities for
viewers to “talk back” and talk to each other about the film,
and the following special features:
What Is Dwarfism?
Learn more about dwarfism, the medical conditions that cause short stature,
and how to avoid upsetting a dwarf — don't call him a midget. And:
Author Dan Kennedy writes about the etymology of dwarfism and his first
impressions of the dwarf community after his short-statured daughter was
born in the early 90s.
What Is Normal? Difference or defect? Diversity or pathology? Journalist
and father Dan Kennedy asks, "What is normal?" and discusses
the importance of distinguishing between genetic differences and genetic
The Height Gap
What about the rest of us "average-sized" folks? According to
a recent study, tall people earn an average of $789 more per inch than
shorter people. And yet while Europeans grow taller, Americans are getting
shorter. Take a closer look at the history of height and find out what
lies behind stature.
Funding: Big Enough has been funded in part by the Stanford University
Research Incentive Fund, Fleishhacker Foundation, Peninsula Community
Foundation, Yale University Shenkin Fellowship, and Silicon Valley Arts
Produced by American Documentary, Inc. and now in its 18th18th season
on PBS, the award-winning P.O.V. series is the longest-running series
on television to feature the work of America's best contemporary-issue
independent filmmakers. Airing Tuesdays at 10 p.m., June through September,
with primetime specials during the year, P.O.V. has brought over 220 award-winning
documentaries to millions nationwide, and now has a Webby Award-winning
online series, P.O.V.'s Borders. Since 1988, P.O.V. has pioneered the
art of presentation and outreach using independent nonfiction media to
build new communities in conversation about today's most pressing social
issues. More information about P.O.V. is available online at www.pbs.org/pov.
Major funding for P.O.V. is provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur
Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council
on the Arts, the Educational Foundation of America, the Ford Foundation,
PBS and public television viewers. P.O.V. is presented by a consortium
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