In Venice, a Young Boatman Steers a Course of His Own
An unusual young man rides through the canals of Venice, a city full of magic and mystery. In David Auerbach’s new documentary, an adult male is filmed with an unassuming camera as he navigates narrow canals, weaving through the traffic of a seedy working-class neighborhood, navigating a neighborhood famous for its criminal underworld. In a strange turn of events, the young man does not look like a petty criminal. He was born with a congenital disease that severely stunted his development. He became a man, and, as he tells it, a man he was not.
“I was born with Down syndrome,” he says. “I was not handicapped. But I was an odd sort of a person.” His story is a riveting story of perseverance, in a city full of oddness. A documentary with a message of hope, of inspiration and of self-empowerment.
The film begins with the camera perched above Auerbach as he takes in the view of Venice from the top of a gondola. A man with Down syndrome was born in Venice. He is the only child of a local fisherman father and a poor woman who works in a hospital. David Auerbach was raised by his grandparents in the middle class suburb of Roseville, Illinois. He studied art at the University of Colorado in Boulder, became politically active and took a job as a teacher’s assistant in New Jersey. In 1993 he moved to Venice to become a part-time resident of the San Marco neighborhood, where the working class and the poor live side by side in poverty and crime.
The film opens with a man from Venice walking through the maze of narrow little streets with a young child. David Auerbach is dressed in a ragged T-shirt and baggy pants. His head is bare of hair, unlike his close-cropped hair in the film. His body is lean, muscular and tanned. He looks like a young man and it seems to be a man who is not a man. He does