Is being handicapped or severely ill a blessing or a curse?
Lance Armstrong has said that if he had his life to live over, he would welcome the cancer. Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, the hero of Emmanuel’s Gift, is another cyclist who turned a curse into a blessing.
Despite being born poor in Ghana with a severely deformed leg, Emmanuel has become an internationally renowned athlete and activist. Someone in the film says that because of Emmanuel, when Ghanaians see a handicapped person they are less likely to say, “Thank God I’m not like him” and more likely to say, “Oh my God, I wish I could be more like him.”
That’s quite an accomplishment because the fate of most handicapped children in Ghana is to be left to die or expected to spend one’s life begging. But Emmanuel refused to accept this fate. Instead, he asks for a bike from a charity and rides it 380 miles across Ghana. Since then he has worked to raise awareness and money to lift disabled people out of misery.
Emmanuel is inspiring, but this film is not as engaging as it could be. More intent on making a point than telling a story, it emphasises Emmanuel’s awards and accolades. Could he be on a par with Nelson Mandela, as the film states? The result is a promotional film aimed at your pocketbook rather than a balanced film that could hit your heart.
The directors come from the world of television sports and it shows. The movie is choppy, with TV news clips, talking heads and celebratory footage strung together.
Bike enthusiasts will be disappointed not to see more of Emmanuel’s bike trek across Ghana. If that ride made Emmanuel a hero, why include only a minute’s worth? Since the bicycle is what turned things around for Emmanuel it would have been a good vehicle for getting to know him better – and why he still bikes twice a day.