CAPSULE: Catherine Jayasuriya produces, writes, and directs and is chief spokesman on camera in DUSTY'S TRAIL: SUMMIT OF BORNEO. This film serves two purposes. It acts as a primer on Duchenne muscular dystrophy and on the alliance of people working to bring this little-known disease to the attention of the world, and is the story of Catherine Jayasuriya's response to her son Dusty's life under the shadow of Duchenne. It also is a chronicle of people working to publicize this disease and their arduous climb of Mount Kinabalu in the northern part of the island of Borneo as an effort to raise public awareness of the disease. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
At age six a death sentence was passed on Dusty Brandom by his own body. All medicine could say was that Dusty was going to slowly die of Duchenne's muscular dystrophy. Dusty still had time to see a little of the world even as his muscles wasted away, but he would not be likely to live into his thirties. Duchenne is a gender- related disease that afflicts males almost exclusively. Dusty's mother Catherine Jayasuriya chronicles her son's life and her own life bringing the world awareness of this little-known disease that afflicts one in 3500 boys worldwide.
Life will be a trial for Dusty Brandom. He is confined to a wheelchair, but he is a source of boundless energy. He does not let his condition drag on his emotions. Instead he is an energy source for those around him. We see several photos of Dusty but none without a smile on his face. He was happy from birth and nearly perfect, except for his being a little physically slow and his frequent tendency to fall down. Doctors said his muscles would deteriorate including his breathing and his heart muscles. That would eventually bring about his death.
Dusty's mother wanted the world to know and understand Duchenne. She founded Coalition Duchenne, a non-profit raising awareness of the disease. Jayasuriya had a dream of being on a mountaintop with a crowd of people raising awareness of Duchenne. She decided to make it happen. The mountain she chose was Kinabalu in Northern Borneo near where she lived as a child. This is all shown in the film.
Then at about the halfway point the film takes a right turn and tells of the coalition members, people from all over the world, coming together on Borneo and climbing 13,455-foot Mt. Kinabalu. The film covers the coalition's first climb of Kinabalu. It is seemingly a prepared if primitive and difficult trail. On the way we meet the chief guide Sapinggi and his son Robbi Sapinggi. Father and son entertain the visitors they will be guiding. The climb is accomplished and we are treated to high altitude views of the surrounding area. As a sad postscript to the story, there was a magnitude-6.0 earthquake on June 5, 2015. Bobbi Sapinggi was injured in the quake and later died of his injuries. So the film now covers multiple natural tragedies. That is a tall order for a short 65-minute documentary. The film was completed in 2013 so the acknowledgment of Robbi's death is limited to a screen in the closing credits.
Catherine Jayasuriya now organizes annual climbs of Mount Kinabalu for the benefit of the Duchenne Coalition. She seems to be a woman of boundless energy and broad accomplishment. For a first-time effort and a film written, directed by, starring and produced by the same person, this film is unintentionally but impressively a tribute to her spirit. I rate DUSTY'S TRAIL: SUMMIT OF BORNEO a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. The film will be on DVD and on- demand video on August 25, 2015.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2637404/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/dustys_trail_summit_of_borneo/
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2015 Mark R. Leeper