Kartemquin Films documentary ‘For the Left Hand’ to be featured

The documentary film, “For the Left Hand,” produced by Kartemquin Films about a physically disabled pianist, Norman Malone, will be featured at Adrian College on Tuesday, April 12, in the Adrian Tobias Center. A reception is scheduled for 5 p.m., and dinner and the movie will follow at 6 p.m. A panel discussion with questions and answers will take place after the 74-minute movie.

This Adrian College documentary film event is free and open to the public. Seating is limited and an emailed RSVP to cbeaubien@adrian.edu by Monday, April 4 is required to attend.

The documentary, co-directed by Gordon Quinn and Leslie Simmer, highlights how Malone had a natural talent of playing the piano at the age of five, but at the age of 10 was attacked by his father and struck in the head with a hammer, leaving him paralyzed on his right side.

Undeterred, Malone returned to the piano as soon as he could and eventually mastered the most difficult compositions created for the left hand alone, without telling anyone except his immediate family how good he became after many years of diligent practice. He was able to perform difficult pieces such as Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand.

The Chicago Tribune did a feature story about Malone when he was 78-years-old and the pianist began a much-delayed concert career with ensuing requests to perform all across America.

The film’s creators said the documentary aims to open discussion and spark positive action on disability, aging, race, and the overall importance of music and art.

The documentary won the Best Documentary Feature Special Humanitarian Award and was Best Documentary Feature Runner-Up at the Woods Hole Film Festival in July, 2021. It also received the Documentary Official Selection Audience Award at the Heartland International Film Festival last October.

Quinn, the co-founder of Kartemquin Films, has helped hundreds of directors and producers advance their projects forward and has been a leading champion of the rights of all documentary filmmakers.

“Documentary filmmaking is by its nature a collaborative art form, but for me it always has had a social and political dimension… Art has an essential role to play in a democracy, and that the art is only really completed when it is experienced,” Quinn said. “I co-founded Kartemquin Films in 1966 to make documentaries that could create empathy, change perceptions, and move people to see the humanity in others. From the beginning, we cared as much about the presentation of the work and the response of the audience as we did about the process of making. We told stories to have consequences in the world and in people’s lives.”

The Tribune’s story about Malone tells how it took him nine years to earn an undergraduate degree from DePaul University, and many more years to complete his master’s, which prepared him to spend more than three decades as a choral teacher in the Chicago Public Schools.

“‘For the Left Hand’ raises issues that I have dealt with in earlier films: disability, poverty, race, and the role of the artist in our democracy. But these are not the main reasons we are telling Malone’s story; nor are we trying to be inspirational,” Quinn said. “I’m drawn to Norman’s story because he is a man with a life in music who in his senior years has reinvented his career and found a new place for himself in the community. Norman does not write the music, but he is now playing for new audiences and interacting with composers to write works for him.”

For more information about the event, email academicaffairs@adrian.edu.