A story of hope
By Travis Gulbrandson
On June 25, 2011, Vermillion resident Larry Smith and a group consisting of his family, friends and supporters completed a five-day cycling trek that took them from Aberdeen to Vermillion.
Now, more than two years later, a documentary about Smith’s journey on the roads and his battle with Parkinson’s disease is making its local debut.
The film, “Ride with Larry,” will have its first showing Friday, Sept. 13, at 7 p.m. at the Coyote Twin & Vermillion Theatre, and will be followed by a Q&A session with Smith and his wife Betty, film co-producer Katie Skow and Tom Black of the South Dakota Film Festival.
Larry said he is looking forward to “seeing how people react to the movie.”
“(The film) has power to it,” he said. “My opinion is that the time is perfect for it.”
“Ride with Larry” is being presented in Vermillion by the South Dakota Film Festival.
According to the Vermillion Chamber of Commerce & Development Company, the theater will donate 50 percent of Friday’s proceeds to South Dakota’s Parkinson’s Association and the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s.
Further screenings will be held through Sept. 19, with showtimes available at http://www.marchfilmsinc.com/.
Skow said everyone involved with the film is excited that it’s finished, and are grateful to the Smiths for sharing their story.
“The film is done in such a way that it’s uplifting and it’s positive,” she said. “A lot of people probably see Larry on the street and think that he lives this tragic life, and he really doesn’t.”
Although Larry and Betty Smith have not yet seen the final version of the film, they did see a rough cut last summer.
“It was really beautiful, and I will admit that I cried at the end, even though I was in it,” Betty said. “It has emotional impact. I think the reason for this film was to really expand awareness of Parkinson’s disease for the general public, but also to put a face on Parkinson’s disease, and to give hope and encouragement to people who are facing really difficult health challenges.
“I think that this film does that, because it tells the story of a person who, against incredible odds, continues to live a really vibrant life,” she said.
Skow said that from start to finish, the filmmaking process took more than three years, more than one year of which was spent in the editing room.
“It just took a little while for the film to kind of find its groove, and we finally found the right editor,” she said. “As soon as we found the right editor, the film just kind of flowed.”
“There are a lot of different parts to the film,” Betty said. “There’s certainly the ride, and the ride was just a life-changing experience for everyone who participated. That last day when we were joined by so many people. For most of the journey it was us and our families, our friends and our support team, and then the last day we were joined by many, many other people who came from as far as California and Florida to ride. That was just amazing.”
Now that the film is complete, Larry’s ride and his story are still having that effect.
Skow said the film was recently shown at the Monterey International Film Festival in Monterey, Mexico, three screenings were set, all of which were sold out.
“We couldn’t believe it,” she said. “There were so many people that were left out of the theater that the festival had to schedule a fourth screening, which was incredible. I think they’ve only had to do that one other time.”
The audience reaction was “incredible,” too, Skow said.
“There was one lady who could only get one ticket to see the film, and so she brought her mother along, who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and she was begging us to get into the theater,” she said.
The woman’s mother had been spending a lot of time on the Internet watching videos of people who have Parkinson’s, and grew more and more depressed.
“We gave up our seats, we ended up getting them in, and afterwards the mother stood up and said, ‘Thank you so much, because I’m leaving this theater with so much love and hope for the future.’ I really think in a way that sums up why we’re doing the film, and why it’s so important that people see it,” Skow said.
The Smiths and Skow said getting as many people to see the film as possible is one of their primary goals.
“We would like to have it available for Parkinson’s support groups and for Parkinson’s Awareness Month in April,” Betty said.
After “Ride with Larry” leaves Vermillion, it will be screened as part of the Orlando International Film Festival, which takes place in October. Skow said it has been submitted to several other festivals, as well.
Although Larry’s Parkinson’s has progressed since he was filmed two years ago, he still gets out to ride his three-wheel recumbent Catrike as much as possible.
“I can ride as much as I want to,” he said. “It’s a great bike. There are several around town now.”
“Ride with Larry” was directed by Ricardo Villarreal and Andrew Rubin. For more information about the film, visit www.facebook.com/ridewithlarry or www.ridewithlarrymovie.com.