Logan Smalley, one of the students in my course at Harvard has been making the rounds on the daytime talk show circuit. A contingent of fellow masters students raised signs saying “Harvard Loves Darius” on the street outside the studio of The Today Show, and Ellen Degeneres embraced Logan and his crew on the Ellen Show. Why has the 25-year old Logan become such a media magnet?
Logan directed an incredible documentary film called Darius Goes West that tells the story of Darius, a 15-year old young man from Athens, GA with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, who travels cross-country to LA in the hope of getting his wheelchair pimped on MTV’s Pimp My Ride. Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is an incurable affliction that typically takes the lives of its victims by the time they reach their early 20s. Logan was a friend of Darius’ older brother who, before succumbing to the disease himself, asked Logan to take care of his younger sibling. To raise awareness of this disease Logan and his friends plotted this trip with Darius. The younger generation, they realized, knows nothing of Jerry Lewis and his annual efforts to raise money for muscular dystrophy. But this generation does know Pimp My Ride!
Raising money with a door-to-door bar-b-q sale and by selling movie credits for $10 and up (possibly the longest credit list in movie history), Logan and his crew rented an RV and took Darius on the trip of a lifetime, his first out of the county. The documented story is wonderful, funny, and heartwarming. It’s also won more than two dozen film awards and got mentioned in The Wall Street Journal as one of the notable documentaries to qualify for the Oscars. And Logan has developed materials to support the educational use of the film. He has hundreds of interested schools who want to share the lessons of the story. Keep your eye out for Logan and Darius; they are worth seeing.