“For me, this film is about telling a different story, or a different perspective of the same story that everyone lives.”
In the short film 4 Feet: Blind Date, Juana is like most other 18-year-olds. She plays around with her style, dying her hair a bright blue. At the kitchen table, she bickers with her mom and sister. After swiping through dating apps, she’s nervous about her first date with a cute guy who she hopes to hook up with. But unlike most teenage stories we see in film, Juana is living with a disability and uses a wheelchair.
Unlike the usual portrayals in pop culture of people living with disabilities, 4 Feet is no after-school special. Although Juana (portrayed by Delfina Diaz Gavier) is fictional, her experiences are meant to be depicted as realistically as possible. That’s largely because of the team behind the film: director María Belén Poncio, VR and sound director Damián Turkieh, producer Ezequiel Lenardón, and lead writer Rosario Perazolo Masjoan, who uses a wheelchair herself and is a disability-rights activist.
“For my experience growing up as a disabled person, I had so many questions that I couldn’t answer because all my friends and the internet have so many different experiences than me,” Rosario told Teen Vogue. “For me, this film is about telling a different story, or a different perspective of the same story that everyone lives.”
The film follows Juana after she matches with a guy (Cristobal Lopez Baena) on a dating app and they agree to meet up, though she doesn’t tell him that she uses a wheelchair (which is completely within her right). Juana isn’t afraid to admit at the kitchen table that she wants to have sex, a conversation that makes her mom uncomfortable. The teen doesn’t take bullshit from anyone, essentially telling off a woman on her bus who thinks Juana’s destination is any of her business. She has a lighter side, joking with a friend over text and teasing a boy who comes up and asks about her wheelchair. Audiences get an inside look into Juana’s life and her access to the world, everything from the irresponsible drivers almost hitting her and the sluggishness of a bus’s accessibility ramp while waiting to get off. Another interesting aspect of 4 Feet is that it’s a VR film that was shot in 360-degree video. This provides audiences with an immersive experience, being able to see the entire environment of the movie’s scenes. It’s also accented with beautiful, colorful illustrations that usually pop up when Juana is in deep thought or feels some sort of strong emotion. Through its powerful plot and thoughtful use of technology, it was even named the best 360-degree video at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival by The Verge.
Audiences can connect to the fact that first dates are awkward for everyone, but are reeled in by watching how Juana navigates this particular experience while living with a disability. She debates telling whether or not telling her date about the wheelchair. While hooking up, her consent and what she wants is arguably more vocal than most people.
“One of the goals that we had was also to de-dramatize disability and sexuality,” Belén told Teen Vogue. “As Rosario has said, there is a lot that people don’t see, or don’t talk about it. And we wanted kind of laugh, to say that it’s okay, you can laugh about this.”
The story jumps between the lead up to Juana’s date and her experience in the bedroom. While the script was initially linear, the filmmakers found that in VR the cuts between scenes didn’t feel organic. The bedroom scene ended up being fairly long, but there were different points of interest that they wanted to highlight. So they spliced it up. Each time the film jumps back to the bedroom scene, it’s one of those moments, whether it’s them first getting comfortable or Juana asking to be moved to the bed. It also creates a bit of tension for the viewer, wondering what’s going to happen next during the hook up when the film reverts back to Juana’s journey to the first date.