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The R-word

Filmmaker Amanda Lukoff grew up advocating for her sister Gabrielle, especially whenever she heard the word ‘retard(ed),’ which was far too often. The disparaging word is everywhere — in TV, movies, music, social media, and throughout our public and private communities — perpetuating negative stereotypes and cultural bias.

THE R-WORD is a humanizing, purposeful, and deeply respectful look into the long-reaching history and lasting implications of derogatory language used to describe people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Through captivating animation sequences, the personal narrative of four sibling stories, and the first-person accounts of self-advocates, we get an intimate and nuanced perspective of the challenges and triumphs of people living with an intellectual disability.

THE R-WORD is an unflinching, heartwarming, humorous, and hopeful journey through our shared human experience.

"Makes a difficult subject accessible to talk about in a way that's non-threatening, even entertaining, and it does so with its message firmly intact."
Richard Propes The Independent Critic

"The R Word film interrogates a slur connected to intellectual disability that is still, sadly, in common usage in North America. With this nuanced look at the word, it shows American culture how to let go of this unnecessary word, while also educating its viewers about inclusive education and the federal law to remove the word from government language. This is also a film about the power of families, especially siblings, to lead the charge to change society to be more inclusive of people with intellectual disabilities."
Beth Haller, Ph.D. author of Representing Disability in an Ableist World

"The R-Word is smart media criticism, showing how the language we use is inseparable from the world we build. Words matter, and this film shows why. It explains how the r-word is rooted in a shameful history of discrimination and eugenics, and how it continues to perpetuate that painful legacy even when used casually and thoughtlessly today."
Bill Kirkpatrick Associate Professor of Media Studies, Department of Communication, Denison University 

"The R-Word's focus on the etymology of slurs gives the film a distinct and compelling perspective. Its exploration of the interweaving of language, culture, and prejudice is thoughtful and illuminating, and provides a valuable backdrop for the challenges and aspirations of the film's delightful characters."
Jason Jakaitis Assistant Professor of Communication at St. Mary's College of California


Main credits

Lukoff, Amanda (film director)
Lukoff, Amanda (screenwriter)
Lukoff, Amanda (film producer)
Egan, Daniel (film producer)

Other credits

Cinematographer, Zachary Halbert; editor, Daniel Egan; music, Audio Network.

Docuseek2 subjects

Distributor subjects



Disabilities, language, mass media; "The R-word"; Women Make Movies