On August 22, more than 200 Special Olympics athletes, volunteers and family members packed a Cineplex theatre in Toronto for a private screening of critically acclaimed film The Peanut Butter Falcon.
Winner of this year’s SXSW Audience Award, the film stars Zack Gottsagen, an actor with Down syndrome, alongside Shia Labeouf and Dakota Johnson. Writer and directors Michael Schwartz and Tyler Nilson met Gottsagen at a camp for actors with disabilities and created the film specifically for him.
The Peanut Butter Falcon centres on Zak (Gottsagen), who runs away from a residential nursing home to follow his dream of becoming a professional wrestler. He meets Tyler (Labeouf), an outlaw on the run, who becomes a friend and ally.
The heartwarming story about acceptance, adventure and chosen family received a resounding 400-plus thumbs up from the 230-seat theatre filled with Special Olympics Ontario athletes and supporters at Cineplex Varsity Cinemas & VIP.
“It was really awesome – I give it 10 gold stars,” Special Olympics Toronto athlete Mike James said after he left the screening.
“I really loved it,” added Tatem Morrison, a Special Olympics Ontario swimmer. “Bring your friends and all your Special Olympics staff and go see it, because it’s amazing!”
The special Aug. 22 screening – one day before the movie’s official Canadian box office launch – was offered to Special Olympics Canada by levelFilm, the Toronto-based film distribution company releasing The Peanut Butter Falcon in Canada.
According to levelFilm co-founder David Hudakoc, partnering with Special Olympics was “a simple decision.”
“This is a film about breaking barriers and finding inspiration, which at its core, represents Special Olympics through and through,” said Hudakoc. “Zak Gottsagen's journey with this film is something that the athletes of Special Olympics Canada will both connect with and draw inspiration from, so what better partner to look to as we roll this amazing film out to audiences across the country.”
The Peanut Butter Falcon is in theatres across Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa and Winnipeg. It’s expected to expand to additional cities August 30.