2020 Sundance Docs in Focus: CRIP CAMP

CRIP CAMP | Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Steve Honigsbaum

Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht chronicle the origins of America’s disability rights movement.

Festival Section:
US Documentary Competition

Sundance Program Description:

No one at Camp Jened could’ve imagined that those summers in the woods together would be the beginnings of a revolution. Just down the road from Woodstock, Camp Jened was a camp for disabled teens. Directors Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht (a former Jened camper himself) deliver a rousing film about a group of campers turned activists who shaped the future of the disability-rights movement and changed accessibility legislation for everyone.

Filled with the spirit, music, and humor of the era, Newnham and LeBrecht speak firsthand to the seeds of empowerment that were planted at Camp Jened. Incredible camp footage from 1971 captures how the campers were finally seen beyond their disabilities. Milestones in the disability-rights movement intersect with LeBrecht’s personal story and the stories of several Camp Jened alums, including then-counselor Judy Heumann. Heumann goes on to drive the effort for disability rights, playing an indispensable role in historic protests leading to the Americans with Disabilities Act. CRIP CAMP shines a bright light on a paramount and overlooked civil-rights battle, emboldening us to come together and spark great change.

Some Background:


  • Nicole Newnham
    Past Sundance docs:

    AWAVENA (2018, VR short)
    COLLISIONS (2016, VR short)

    This is the fourth doc feature for the Emmy-winning and Oscar-shortlisted Newnham. She received support for this and previous projects from the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program grantee for this and previous projects, and also directed the Sundance alumni fiction short UNFORGETTABLE FACE.

  • Jim LeBrecht

    In addition to his work as a disability-rights advocate, LeBrecht is a veteran sound designer/editor, and founder of audio postproduction house Berkeley Sound Artists. He has worked on the sound of numerous Sundance alumni projects, most recently MINDING THE GAP and UNREST. This marks his feature debut as director/producer.


  • Sara Bolder

    This marks the producing debut for Bolder, a longtime sound editor-turned-nonprofit social justice fundraiser and development consultant.

Associate Producer:

  • Lauren Schwartzman

    This is also the first Sundance credit for Schwartzman, a Student Academy Award winner.

Executive Producers:

  • Barack Obama and Michelle Obama

    This project is part of the initial slate of the Obamas’ production company in partnership with Netflix, Higher Ground Productions, which also included the acquisition of 2019 Sundance alumni AMERICAN FACTORY.

  • Tonia Davis

    This marks the first Sundance credit for the Higher Ground Productions co-head.

  • Priya Swaminathan
    Past Sundance docs:

    CLICK EFFECT (2016, VR short)

    Higher Ground Productions co-head Swaminathan also executive produced the Sundance New Frontier short LIFE OF US.

  • Howard Gertler
    Past Sundance docs:


    The Oscar- and Emmy-nominated Gertler also produced the Sundance fiction alumni projects WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER, ADAM, WORLD’S GREATEST DAD, JUMP TOMORROW, and THE BEST THIEF IN THE WORLD, as well as the fiction shorts SERAPH and A BUCK’S WORTH.



Additional Editor:

  • Shane Hofeldt

    This marks Hofeldt’s first Sundance editing credit.

Story Consultant:

  • Denise Sherer Jacobson

    Sherer Jacobson is a writer and disability educator, as well as a past Camp Jened camper.

Why You Should Watch:
Making excellent use of archival footage, including from Camp Jened itself, as well as the personal reflections of several participants, Newnham and LeBrecht reveal an affecting, little known history of a social justice movement and the liberating experience that served as a catalyst to inspire it. The doc will premiere as one of this year’s Day One screenings.

More Info:

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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