The star of Roadside Attractions and Godspeed Pictures "Where Hope Grows" Kris Polaha revealed the rewards of appearing in the family-friendly film that revolves around Down syndrome this week.
In theaters everywhere on May 15, "Where Hope Grows" follows Polaha as Calvin Campbell, a former baseball star and single parent struggling with alcoholism. Although his life is spinning out of control, Calvin finds a friend in the most unlikely of people – Produce, a young man with Down syndrome. As their friendship blossoms, Calvin's bitterness and resentment begins to fade as he sees the world through Produce's eyes.
"There are a few projects in an artist's life that remind him of why he wanted to be an artist in the first place," Polaha said to The Christian Post. With 'Where Hope Grows,' it was whole new experience on a personal level – I was going through a prayerful time [while filming], I was fasting. On a spiritual level, it was a cool moment."
Adding to the fulfillment of his role in "Where Hope Grows," Polaha worked closely with co-star David DeSanctis, who has Down syndrome in real life and made his acting debut as Produce in the film.
"Meeting David, getting to work with him, getting to know his family, and knowing someone with [Down syndrome] was the most life-changing experience I think I've ever had, and that will last longer than the artistic thing," said Polaha. "This was on a deep human level. I didn't know anyone with [Down syndrome]."
Despite having an abnormal chromosome, 23-year-old DeSanctis is making his dream of being an actor a reality, and he even memorized each of his lines for "Where Hope Grows" well before rehearsals. Polaha admitted to being previously misinformed about people with Down syndrome, and the stereotype he was familiar with was shattered by DeSanctis, who steals several scenes in the film.
"I always assumed you heard their life span was 20 to 25 years, I heard they were incapable, it was based on everything I heard," Polaha told CP. "David was the most attentive, best listener, and meeting his family – I asked [David's father], "If you could wave a magic wand, would you want to have David without the [Down syndrome]?' And he said, 'Absolutely not, our lives are so much richer with him.'"
The same realization that Polaha had about people with Down syndrome will be available to moviegoers across the country on May 15 with the "Where Hope Grows" premiere – something the actor said could save lives.
"It is interesting, with modern science, you can find out if you're having a baby with [Down syndrome] and make a decision based on viable life," the actor said. "The film shows that it's beyond viable. If there was a woman out there who was having a baby with [Down syndrome], it could save a life."
"Where Hope Grows" has already received support from both the Shriver family-founded Best Buddies and the Special Olympics. Furthermore, Polaha shared the enthusiastic reactions of the film's audiences, both Christian and secular, thus far.
"It was [writer/director Chris Dowling's] goal to make a film for Christian audiences as well as for secular, and the way to do that is to make a great movie," he explained. "We are at the crossroads where I am not sure what to expect at screenings, but the responses are always really positive. People say they thought they were just seeing a movie but it stayed with them for a week."
To learn more about "Where Hope Grows," visit the film's website here.
The trailer is below.