Daisy Freedman '25 headshot

As a Class of 2025 film studies student, I have dedicated my academic and creative journey to reshaping narratives around disability through film and art. My work, which is deeply personal and inspired by my own experiences as a multi-organ-transplant recipient, focuses on challenging misconceptions and highlighting the beauty in vulnerability.

My 2023 short film As You Are, [which will screen at this year's Athena Film Festival], is a testament to this mission. Created during the COVID-19 pandemic, the film delves into themes of desirability, intimacy, and the unique experiences of disabled individuals. The story captures the journey of an interabled queer couple spending their first night together, discovering love and acceptance while healing their relationships with their own bodies.

It’s a story close to my heart, reflecting my lifelong struggle with scars and bodily differences and my desire to see disabled characters portrayed in film with sympathy, love, and desire. This visibility is crucial for fostering understanding and appreciation for those who look and love differently. The film has earned multiple grants and awards — such as the Colin Higgins Youth Grant — and acclaim at various festivals, which underscores the resonance of these themes with audiences.

My advice is simple: Believe in the importance of your stories and perspectives.

Daisy Friedman
Daisy Freedman '25 poster

At Barnard, I’ve found an environment that fosters creativity and advocacy. My work in storytelling is grounded in authenticity and inclusivity. This approach was crucial in the production of As You Are, in which I cast a disabled actor, Bri Scalesse, to ensure a genuine representation of the disabled experience. Engaging with Scalesse, a wheelchair user, provided invaluable insights into the character’s life, ensuring that the script depicted the wheelchair user community with authenticity, power, and vulnerability.

As the co-founder of the Barnard Union of Disabled Students, I recently participated in the Bold Beauty Project as a model. This project partners women with unique physical attributes with photographers to capture images that reflect their personal definitions of beauty. My involvement, both in this project and through the union, aims to reshape the narrative about disability, empower those with disabilities, and educate others — particularly students who may have limited exposure to disabled experiences. Such initiatives are crucial in fostering understanding and respect for the disabled community, both on and off campus.

Daisy Freedman '25 movie shoot-2
Friedman (white shirt) on the film set

Barnard has cultivated a feeling in me that I’m able to do anything as long as I truly believe in what I’m doing and put my all into it. Being around so many inspiring students who are passionate about what they do has really pushed me to do my best.

My passion for filmmaking and visual arts that empower disabled communities started before college. In high school, I created an online magazine featuring work by young disabled women. This year, speaking at the Superfest Disability Film Festival in Berkeley, California, I emphasized the transformative power of film in shaping societal perceptions of disability. Film can invent new realities, challenging outdated and one-dimensional portrayals of disabled individuals. I spoke about how intimacy with a disabled person should be seen as a privileged gift, not a right, given their often exploitative experiences within the medical system. My goal, through my films and discussions, is for the audience to understand and value this perspective.

Daisy Freedman '25 on set
Daisy Freedman '25 movie shoot-3
Daisy Freedman '25 movie shoot-1
Daisy Freedman '25 awards ceremony
(L-R) Daisy Friedman ’25, Bri Scalesse, Estefania Giraldo

 For fellow students aspiring to use art and film to address social issues, my advice is simple: Believe in the importance of your stories and perspectives even when many try to push marginalized bodies and stories to the fringes of society. While it may be intimidating to be among the first to try something new, the positive influence on the community is significant and gratifying. The world also needs narratives that capture the spectrum of human experiences, and every voice uniquely contributes to this kind of diversity.

As I look ahead, I’m excited about my upcoming project, One Matzo Ball or Two? This short film will explore the intersection of chronic illness, culture, and family, set against the backdrop of a Passover Seder. After graduation, my goal is to continue making independent films and potentially venture into television writing — always with the aim of bringing more disability representation to the screen.


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