Deej

DJ Savarese ("Deej") is a gifted young writer and an advocate for nonspeaking autistics.

Deej 01
Series
America ReFramed
Funding Initiative
Open Call
Rooy robert filmmaker bio
Producer/Director

Robert Rooy

Robert Rooy is documentary producer and director living in Maryland. He was formerly a first assistant director in the mainstream film industry and is a veteran of more than 40 productions, including Lonesome Dove, Honeymoon in Vegas, Minority Report, and The West Wing. He has also worked in more than 20 countries, creating media with and for Show more international anti-poverty, human rights, and environmental organizations. His encounter with Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, led to producing and directing To Our Credit, a two-part PBS series that aired in 1998. To Our Credit was the first in-depth examination of microcredit, an innovative anti-poverty strategy, to air in the United States. On the basis of his media work on social issues, he was honored in 2011 with a Distinguished Alumnus Award by his undergraduate alma mater, Calvin College. Show less

Savarese david filmmaker bio
Producer/Writer

David James Savarese

Once written off as profoundly retarded, DJ Savarese recently graduated from high school in Grinnell, IA, with highest honors. A member of the National Honors Society, he attends Oberlin College as that institution’s first nonspeaking student with autism. DJ has received numerous scholarships, including the Herbert Hoover Uncommon Student Award, in Show more recognition of the work he has done to promote inclusion and literacy-based education for nonspeaking people. He has presented at the Autism National Committee, the University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability, the Syracuse University Institute on Communication and Inclusion, and at several other venues. A poet, a memoirist, and a playwright, DJ has published his work in Disability Studies Quarterly, Stone Canoe, Autism Life Skills, and on several web sites. Two of his plays received Outstanding Performance awards at the Iowa high school state competition level. Show less

We fund untold stories for public media.

Learn more about funding opportunities with ITVS.

The Film

Deej is the story of DJ Savarese (“Deej”), a gifted, young writer and an advocate for nonspeaking autistics. Once a “profoundly disabled” foster kid seemingly on the fast track to nowhere, DJ is now a first year college student with a burning desire to stand up for those whose neurological differences cause others to summarily dismiss them as incompetent, often “housing them in classrooms of easy lessons.” As writer and co-producer of Deej, he seeks to quell deep-seated fears and heal old wounds while giving others like him a voice:This movie reassesses hope. Yes, yes, hope is not easy or free. Yes, hope is hard…. Not a sweet, dear, hopeful collection, our film asks hope to survive challenges and to hear our dear selves freed.— DJ Savarese

Deej is a compelling story on many levels. It’s the courageous quest of a passionate young man to “find freedom” for himself and others like him. It’s a dramatic coming-of-age story in an intense, pressure-filled environment. It’s an inspiring love story that includes his adoptive parents, a devoted extended family, and a community of close friends, many of whom live with their own disabilities. And, it’s a deep, unflinching exploration of what it really takes to make the goals of “inclusion” and “disability rights” a reality.

Topics