Apple TV documentary features two filmmakers friends with Down syndrome

Two close friends with Down syndrome who caused a sensation four years ago when they created their own gory zombie movie are back, this time in a documentary promoted by a Hollywood luminary.

“Sam & Mattie Make a Zombie Movie,” which premiered on Apple TV Tuesday, follows Sam Suchmann and Mattie Zufelt in their tenacious 10-year effort to write, produce and star in the 2016 film “Spring Break Zombie Massacre,” a comedy. of terror with severed heads and gushing arteries.

The original film garnered national attention and earned the two Rhode Islanders an appearance on Conan O’Brien’s talk show.

Suchmann and Zufelt, both 25, enjoyed the attention then and now too.

“I’ve always been the shy type,” Suchmann said. “Now I’m experiencing what cool kids go through.”

But anyone who knows them knows that it is not the overcoming of a disability that makes their story remarkable; it is the total commitment they showed when making the film.

“They’re a whirlwind of energy and happiness,” Peter Farrelly, like them from Rhode Island and the documentary’s executive producer, said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles. “These guys are really smart and they knew what they wanted. Our job was to help them, but without hindering them ”.

Farrelly, producer of the Oscar-winning film “Green Book” (“Green Book: A friendship without borders”), and his brother Bobby have included actors with disabilities in their films for years and have lobbied for other powerful Hollywood agents to do so. the same. His 2005 film “The Ringer,” about someone who pretends to have a disability and competes in the Special Olympics, had about 150 extras with Down syndrome.

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The Farrellys received the 2020 Morton E. Ruderman Award for Inclusion, awarded by the Boston-based Ruderman Family Foundation, for demonstrating outstanding achievement in the field of inclusion of people with disabilities.

The documentary doesn’t even mention Down syndrome, said Sam’s brother Jesse Suchmann, who along with his friend Robert Carnevale directed the original film by recruiting friends in the industry to help with their time, experience and equipment.

The hope is that the film will inspire others to put neurodivergent minds in charge of creative processes, as Sam and Mattie did, rather than simply putting them into a script in the name of inclusion, Jesse Suchmann said.

Suchmann, from Providence, and Zufelt, from Bristol, have been best friends since they met at the Special Olympics in elementary school. They discovered that they had a mutual love for horror movies.

“We’ve always loved horror movies and zombie movies,” Zufelt said. “‘Saw’ (‘Saw: macabre game’) and ‘Purge’ (‘The night of the atonement’) were always my favorites”.

They thought they could put together something as good as what they saw coming out of Hollywood. The result was “Spring Break Zombie Massacre”, a 45-minute film in which they play a pair of brothers who save the world from a zombie apocalypse generated by the devil himself.

Farrelly, who has become a mentor and friend to the duo, said he has seen the tape about 10 times and it always makes him smile.

“It’s about what anybody has to do in life to make a movie, or do anything in life that is difficult,” he said. “People shouldn’t see your movie because it was made by two children with Down syndrome. They should see it because it is a very good movie. “

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Zufelt and Suchmann aren’t done either: They’re planning a sequel.

Suchmann promised that it will be “epic.”


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