Directed by Nick T. Spark
The multi-award winning, feature documentary Right Footed tells the story of Jessica Cox, a 29-year-old woman with a disability who, over the course of the film, transforms from a speaker and mentor into a disability rights activist and leader working on a global level. Despite a childhood full of enormous mental and physical challenges, we see how a young Jessica earned a college degree and two Taekwondo black belts, learned to drive a car and, incredibly, became the first person in the world to pilot a plane — using her feet. Jessica’s achievements launch her career as a public speaker and, as the film begins, we see her begin to mentor children with disabilities. Fueled by relentless personal drive and strong personal faith, her mission is to tell her story and spread the idea that ‘disability does not mean inability’. We see her mentoring children with disabilities and their families in ways that are beautiful, moving and effective. Soon an important opportunity presents itself, as Nobel Prize winning NGO Handicap International invites her to visit Ethiopia to promote inclusion of people with disabilities, especially in schools. Ethiopia is a place where those born with a disability are marginalized, denied an education, and viewed as cursed. Jessica appears in the media and does her best to debunk these beliefs, and works one-on-one with children to encourage them to attend school. After returning from Africa, Jessica begins to wonder whether she might make a larger impact through political advocacy. She questions how much love and personal connection can really achieve. How many people do you have to touch to really change the world?
Despite a previous disinterest in politics, Jessica transforms herself into a disability advocate — working with survivors of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, including those disabled as a result of their injuries, and lobbying Senators in Washington D.C. for ratification of a major disability treaty, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Based on the Americans With Disabilities Act, a piece of legislation that directly benefited Jessica when she was growing up, the CRPD represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to extend civil rights to people with disabilties globally.
The documentary is both a portrait of Jessica’s unexpected journey as she becomes a disability activist and a very personal story — spanning more than two-and-a-half years of her life during which time she gets married and begins a new life with her husband Patrick while also taking care of her mother Inez who is stricken with cancer. The film also reveals much about Jessica’s religious faith and the reasons that she does not see herself as a victim of her condition.
Right Footed is about the power of human will, and examines how much one individual’s life can affect people on a deeper level. It is also story about perseverance — the perseverance and fortitude of Philippine immigrant mother Inez and how she passed that capacity on to her daughter Jessica, who has overcome her limitations beyond her mother’s wildest dreams. Born under circumstances that initially appeared absolutely tragic and heartbreaking, Jessica’s story is also about our ability to heal from a great trauma, and the power of transformation — about how one person was able to convert the greatest disaster that befell her, into one of her greatest assets.
NICK SPARK is a Los Angeles based writer and documentarian with a long standing passion for unconventional characters, including the oft-overlooked female heroine.
The Legend of Pancho Barnes which he produced and wrote profiles gender-bending pilot Florence “Pancho” Barnes, a forgotten rival of Amelia Earhart’s.
It won the L.A. area Emmy in 2010, screened in numerous film festivals and continues to air on public television stations in the USA and abroad. An accomplished writer of non-fiction and history, Nick was the associate editor for Wings and Airpower magazines.
He has also appeared on PBS’ History Detectives, Japan’s NHK and National Public Radio concerning his research projects. He is an MFA graduate of the U.S.C.
School of Cinematic Arts and has an undergraduate degree in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. He also has the distinction of having won the student Emmy Award at U.S.C. as a grad student, and as an undergrad at the U of A, both for documentary films.