the 21st Chromosome

How do you tell the story of someone who’s in your family but doesn’t have a voice to say whether or not they want that story told?


If you’re filmmaker, Kirsten Johnson, who has a younger sister with Down Syndrome, Autism and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, you don’t follow her around with a camera; in fact, you don’t film her at all.


(Trailer to the Right / Full Version Below)

Instead, you painstakingly hand-draw over a thousand drawings, you personally recreate distressing incidents from the past, you render over 20 pounds of frozen peas inedible and finally, you bring characters to life in imaginative scenarios that illuminate what’s it’s like to have someone in your life whose personal reality you can only begin to fathom.

the 21st Chromosome - Raggedy Ann choking



Gretchen is revealed to be a life-long obsession for Johnson. One that developed slowly, as what at first seemed completely normal was slowly revealed to be a subject of intense curiosity, fear and occasional cruelty. “You’re a retard just like your sister!”


Johnson who is a talented performer and painter and who has now turned her attention to filmmaking acts as an engaging mediator between her family’s reality and the outside world. Understanding the embarrassment that many people feel when meeting her sister she sets out to answer their often-heard and difficult questions. This film was born by an urgent need to bridge this gap.

The 21st Chromosome is distributed by Moving Images Distribution.


Running time – 22 minutes, 44 seconds


© 2014


*Audience Favorite

*2nd Place Documentary Winner




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