EXCLUSIVE: Diversity also includes the disabled and now there is a feature film project in development about one woman’s struggle to make sure the disabled were recognized and allowed to participate in their own Olympics during a time when Olympic fever was at its height. Shivani Rawat’s ShivHans Pictures has partnered with Ken Kwapis’ In Cahoots to produce Special, the story of Anne Burke and the first Special Olympic Games. Kwapis is attached to direct and Matthew Scott Weiner will write the script based on his pitch. ShivHans has already acquired the life rights for Burke and will finance the project’s development.
Special is the true, inspirational tale of 24 year-old Anne Burke who, in 1968, during a time of social and political unrest, created The Special Olympics. It’s a female underdog story about defying the odds to create an event that brought thousands of disabled children out of the shadows, an event that would grow into a worldwide phenomenon championed by Eunice Kennedy Shriver.
As a shy, dyslexic college drop-out working for the Chicago Parks & Recreation Department, Burke was the least likely person to become a heroic champion for the disabled but she did. The myriad of obstacles in her path included the famously bigoted head of the Olympics commission who did not want to “dilute the brand” by allowing “retarded” children to masquerade as Olympians.
Her quest took place against the turbulent backdrop of anti-war and civil rights protests, at a time when the rights of the disabled were low on the priority list of progress. Most poignantly, Burke faced resistance from the parents themselves, who feared exposing their children to ridicule. However, her passion for the kids never wavered, and along the way something extraordinary occurred: this unassuming, reserved young woman found her own voice.
After the success of the inaugural games of The Special Olympics, Burke returned to college, earned a law degree, rose up the ranks of the Illinois legal profession, and is now a Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Shivani Rawat and Monica Levinson will produce this heroic woman’s story for ShivHans Pictures alongside Alexandra Beattie for In Cahoots. UTA Independent Film Group is repping the rights to the film.
Attorney Dan Stutz of Stutz Law Corp. negotiated on behalf of ShivHans Pictures. Weiner is repped by Kaplan/Perrone and UTA. Kwapis is repped by UTA, Code Entertainment and Hansen Jacobson while Beattie is represented by UTA, Code Entertainment and Myman Greenspan.
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