Where would you go if you’d never been away from home? What would you do if you didn’t have much time left? DARIUS WENT WEST! Meet 15-year-old Darius Weems from Athens, Georgia, who was born with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), the most common fatal genetic disorder to affect children worldwide. In 1999, he watched his beloved older brother, Mario, pass away from the same disease at age 19. Soon after, Darius lost use of the muscles in his legs and had to begin using a wheelchair.
A group of Darius’ college-age friends decided there was no need for his quality of life to disintegrate along with his muscles. In the summer of 2005, they rented a wheelchair-accessible RV and took Darius, who had never seen mountains, the ocean or even crossed a state line, on the adventure of a lifetime. The ultimate goal of their 7,000-mile cross-country journey was to reach Los Angeles and convince MTV’s hit show “Pimp My Ride” to customize Darius’ wheelchair. Along the way, they evaluated wheelchair accessibility in America, celebrated the 15th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and raised awareness of DMD—particularly among a generation not familiar with Jerry Lewis. They also found joy, brotherhood and the knowledge that life, even when imperfect, is always worth the ride.
The Philosophy Behind this Film
This documentary is designed to entertain as well as educate the masses about DMD by telling a story through the lens of friendship. In addition to hilarious footage from this all-male road trip, Darius Goes West features personal stories from two other families affected by DMD, as well as an in-depth interview with a medical expert discussing promising new research that offers hope for treatment and possibly even a cure.
This film focuses on ability, not disability. Darius Weems is no DMD poster child. He’s a typical teenager who wakes up grouchy and curses on occasion. But audiences love his sense of humor and his megawatt smile. And instead of feeling sorry for Darius because he is terminally ill, viewers share his excitement as he discovers America.
We know—and Darius knows—that DMD won’t be cured in his lifetime. Nevertheless, Darius took a road trip to raise awareness of his disease in hopes of benefiting those with DMD who follow in his foot- steps—and to prove that life has no limits, even for those in a wheelchair.