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World premiere of Kelly's Hollywood this Friday
by Buck Quigley
Hooray for Kelly!
You would be hard-pressed to find a more touching and ultimately life-affirming documentary about sibling love than Brian Donovan’s Kelly’s Hollywood, which premieres on Friday at the Amherst Theatre with screenings at 3pm and 7pm. Shot with a home video camera and augmented with old home movie footage, it tells the story of the remarkable bond between the director—a Kenmore native who moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career—and his animated younger sister, Kelly, who was born with Down syndrome.
“When I picked up the camera 15 years ago, I didn’t have much of an agenda,” says Donovan. “I was capturing moments in Kelly’s life that inspired me, but when those moments started to affect me more directly, I got more serious.”
For several years as he followed his ambition to write, act, direct and produce in Hollywood, Kelly would come to stay with her older brother for months at a time, occasionally having the opportunity to meet some of her showbiz crushes like the Bee Gees, and Colin Firth—thrilling moments for her that were captured on video and later folded into the film.
Balancing his successful acting career with caring for his sister and catering to her wishes also made it difficult for Donovan to form lasting romantic relationships of his own. We see Kelly struggle with feelings of jealousy when other women demand more of Brian’s time and attention—something that she’d enjoyed exclusively her entire life. One scene in particular captures her sadness over this changing dynamic in their relationship as she crawls into bed, alone.
Interviews with their mother, Pat, expand upon the story and reveal the great depth of understanding and love that binds the family together. Their father, Edward, was deaf, and worked for many years as an artist for Bell Aerospace. They also have an older brother, Ed. Candid commentary from Donovan’s future wife also helps to illustrate the challenges involved in the couple’s early relationship.
The climax comes when Donovan—with a lot of help from his friends in the entertainment industry—arranges for a one-night-only performance by Kelly at an L.A. theater, complete with limousines, paparazzi, the red carpet, and celebrity guests. There’s some singing, some dancing, lots of laughter and much heartfelt applause. It’s a moving episode in an inspiring tribute that examines individual struggles, losses, and triumphs. Audience members should be advised to bring Kleenex.
“By documenting my sister, I hope the film illuminates that it’s not who you are when you’re born, but who you are when you live,” Donovan says.
Kelly’s Hollywood is part of the Museum of disABILITY History Film and Speaker Series. Tickets are $10/advance, $15/door. Event proceeds benefit the Museum of disability History, Bornhava and Cantalician Center. For more information visit: disabilityfilmfest.org.
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