The MacGuffin Letters

Donna Sullivan

November 2017

Dear Academy Member,

The critics agree:  

“Two enthusiastic thumbs up!” – Portland Observer
The MacGuffin Letters is this year’s biggest surprise.  This true story weaves through whispers of quiet tenderness to explosions of terrifying violence.  Like the variations of the human experience, this is a narrative of breathtaking complexity; a masterpiece.   

“Brave and Unflinching!” – Women’s Day
An impressive range of emotion is captured in the unexpectedly satisfying The MacGuffin Letters,  a painfully realistic character study culminating in a violent and terrifying crime. Alfred Hitchcock coined the phrase MacGuffin as a reference to a seemingly insignificant object upon which the plot will later turn. The MacGuffins in this story are ordinary, everyday encounters fraught with micro-aggressions, ignorance, and fear.

“Oscar worthy! Bravo!” – Accessible Society News

In a masterful stroke of storytelling, The MacGuffin Letters takes the audience on a roller coaster ride of joy and sorrow, ultimately revealing – in a scene of anguish that is nothing short of transformative – the ableism our society must fight if equity and justice can ever be achieved.

“A tour de force! Four Chairs!” –  Disability Scoop

Through the letters the audience learns of both the subtle and extreme expressions of prejudice and discrimination experienced by people with disabilities in their interactions with the physical and social environment.   

Click here to watch a clip from The MacGuffin Letters (no closed captioning available).

Click here to read some of The MacGuffin Letters (will not work with screen reading software).

Dear Portland Transit Authority,

Thank you for having wheelchair accessible seats in a very clearly marked space at the front of

—————the bus. Whenever I took my son on the bus, the bright blue signs helped inform everyone

—————that my son was different and they could see how hard it was to deal with him anytime I

—————wanted to go anywhere.

Dear Waitress at Johnny’s Diner,

I’m writing to let you know that my son and I will no longer come to breakfast on Tuesday

—————mornings to order blueberry pancakes (hold the blueberries). Since you liked to stare at

—————my son, I’m enclosing his picture. Perhaps you can put it on the charity bucket that sits

—————next to the cash register to collect pennies for poor afflicted kids with braces on their sad

—————little legs. I hope some of that money goes to the mothers. I feel so sorry for them; they

—————have it worse than anyone.

Dear Doctor Grey,  

I am writing to inform you that there will be no need to go ahead with my son’s sterilization as

—————you had advised (or mine for that matter). Thank you for all your efforts to make him

—————normal. He often talked to me about being scared and humiliated when he had to sit in

—————his underwear so many times while you and your colleagues pointed at him and touched

—————him with cold hands.  I told him it was important so we could figure out how to fix him. I

—————think that made him feel better.  

Dear Senator Goodguy,

I would like to say thank you for speaking at the benefit to raise money for our school to install a

—————wheelchair ramp in the auditorium like the ones at the back of the school.  It’s nice that

—————people felt sorry for us when they saw us trying to get to the stage when he won his award

—————for highest scores in math. It’s too bad that none of the kids were ever able to make it to a

—————play date or birthday party so we could thank them for their charity. It’s also too bad I

—————guess the schools have to put all their money into sports and there is none left for things

—————like ramps.

“The twist at the end will blow you away!” – Mainstream Press

Spoiler Alert – The final scene will be revealed in the following excerpt from the Mainstream Press review.

The letters in the story that this reviewer found the most disturbing and enlightening were not those written by the mother who threw her autistic son off the bridge, but those that came to newspapers and magazines following their reports of the story.  The MacGuffin Letters uses these as a powerful punctuation for its anti-ableist message.  A lengthy list of violent crimes committed against people with disabilities in the last 20 years scrolls across the screen accompanied by readings of the written expressions of sympathy and concern that were sent to newspaper editors, posted on blogs and websites, and circulated through social media.  The focus of the sympathy and concern in these messages; however, was not for the victims, but for the perpetrators.

View All Comments
“It’s a tragedy for everyone involved.  You can see why she would be out of her mind.”
“I’m not sure how she lasted as long as she did.  It is so hard on the caregivers.”
“She was always so patient.  She must have been under a tremendous amount of stress.”
“We’re setting up a fund for her.  She will need legal assistance and a public relations team.”
“My cousin cares for two retards.  I don’t know how she hasn’t killed them both yet.  She’s amazing!”

The MacGuffin Letters makes the best possible use of the medium: to tell with powerful and unapologetic certainty a provocative story that will start conversations about discrimination and basic human rights in this country.  Please consider this important film for your vote.

Nothing About Us Without Us Films, Inc.

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